US denim imports edged down in the first seven months of 2017, according to data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Total imports of denim apparel in the period fell by 1.3 per cent on a dollar basis, to $1.94 bn. Units rose by 1.3 per cent, driving down average cost by 2.6 per cent to $7.56. Denim imports have been on a downward trend since they peaked at $4.15 bn in 2013, with much of the drop due to declining prices. Though the premium end of the market remains robust and interesting, it still represents a small part of the overall denim market. For the mid-tier and mass segments, US brands and retailers have been shifting the bulk of their sourcing to lower-cost countries to meet consumer demands for cheaper product.

For the January through July 2017 period, China kept its position as the number one source of US denim apparel despite losing 0.6 percentage points of import share compared to the same period in 2016, leaving it with 26 per cent of the total. The average cost of denim from China increased by 4 per cent. The number two trading partner, Mexico, lost 1.2 percentage points of share, the most share of any major trading partner, ending July with 22.7 per cent of the year-to-date total.

Bangladesh gained the most share of any trading partner, picking up a percentage point, to 13.8 per cent of the total. Vietnam gained 0.9 percentage points of US denim market share. Egypt and Pakistan also gained, while Cambodia and Nicaragua lost. Most of Egypt’s growth was in women’s jeans. Jeans represent almost all denim imports, at 98 per cent of the year-to-date total. Men’s and boys’ denim represented the largest segment, at 51 per cent of the total on a dollar basis, down slightly from the prior year period. The women’s and girls’ segment increased its share of total slightly to 47 per cent of the total. The average unit cost of a pair of jeans fell about 3 per cent, with men’s and women are declining by the same amount.

Denim jackets, skirts, dresses and other garments represent less than 2 per cent of total denim imports. Through July, imports of denim jackets increased by 52 per cent, but remain an extremely small portion of total denim imports. Men’s and boys’ jean imports dropped by 3.8 per cent in the period, while women’s rose by 0.8 per cent. Men’s and boys’ jeans suffered a less than one drop in units. Women’s units increased by 4 per cent. China has exported a total of $504 mn in denim to the US so far this year, down 3.4 per cent from the prior year period. Unit imports from China increased by almost 2 per cent, resulting in an average cost per garment decrease of 5.2 per cent, to $7.20. Men’s jeans from China fell more than women’s. US brands imported $440 mn worth of denim apparel from Mexico in the seven months ending July 2017, 6.4 per cent less than in the same period in 2016. Total units from Mexico fell by 6.4 per cent as well, so the average cost per pair remained flat at $8.14. Men’s jeans comprised 88 per cent of US denim imports from Mexico, and were responsible for most of the decline from that country as well.

Imports from Bangladesh, the US’s third-largest source of denim apparel, increased by 6.3 per cent to $268 mn, with most of the gains in women’s. Total units imported were up by 10 per cent. The average cost of a pair of jeans from Bangladesh fell by 3.6 per cent to $5.86, the lowest of any top 10 trading partner. The biggest percentage increase was enjoyed by Vietnam, whose denim exports to the US rose by 18 per cent, to $108 bn, despite the demise of TPP. Average unit cost fell 4 per cent to $7.93, 10 per cent higher than that of China. Egypt, the fourth largest source of US denim imports, saw its shipments of denim to the US increase by 15 per cent, mostly due to a 14 per cent surge in units.