Latest Trends in the US Apparel Industry (update: January 2015)

Latest statistics released by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) indicate several trends in the U.S. apparel industry:

  • First, the retail market is gradually recovering. According to AAFA, on average, every American spent $907 on clothing (or purchased 64 garments) in 2013. Although this figure is still less than the one before the 2008 financial crisis, it is the highest level since 2012.
  • Second, “Made in USA” is growing but US consumers still rely on imports. Data from AAFA shows that US apparel production increased 6.2 percent from 2012 to 2013, accounting for 2.55% share of U.S. apparel market. However, nearly 98% of apparel consumed in the US were still imports in 2013.
  • Third, China remains the top apparel supplier to the United States. Despite the concerns about the rising production cost in China, latest data from OTEXA shows that, in 2014 (January to November) China still accounted for 42.5% of US apparel imports in terms of quantity and 39.1% in terms of value–almost the highest level in history. These two numbers were 41.7% and 39.9% a year earlier. On the other hand, Vietnam’s market share has reached 9.3% (by value) and 10.7% (by quantity) in 2014 (January to November), about ¼ of China’s exports to the United States.
  • Fourth, job market reflects continuous shift of the apparel industry. According to AAFA, among the total 2.8 million workers directly employed by the US apparel industry in 2013, only 5% were in the manufacturing sector, 5% were in the wholesaling sector and as many as 90% were working for retailers. However, within the apparel retail sector, total employment by the department stores is quickly shrinking—dropped 7.6 percent from 2012 to 2013 and cumulatively 21.3 percent from 1998 to 2013. At the same time, specialty clothing stores and sporting goods stores are hiring more people: 13.8% and 64.5% increase of employment from 1998 to 2013 respectively. The contrasting employment trend reflects the changing nature of the U.S. apparel retail market and the channels through which U.S. consumers purchase clothing.
  • Fifth, US consumers are paying higher taxes on imported clothing. Calculated by AAFA, while the overall U.S. imports were only charged by a 1.4% tariff rate, the effective duty rate on all apparel imports rose to 13.6% in 2013. The higher effective duty rate may be caused by the fact that less apparel were imported utilizing free trade agreement or trade preference programs.

Appendix: Facts on the US Apparel Market in 2012

Slide1 Slide2

Data Source:

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

4 thoughts on “Latest Trends in the US Apparel Industry (update: January 2015)”

  1. These facts somewhat surprise me because I knew some of the facts but I never knew the exact numbers. It was apparent to me that people are buying more clothes which means that the industry is recovering from 2008. But it was surprising to see the price of $907 on average in the year 2013 on garments. This is interesting to see that this is the highest number since 2012 but before 2008 this number apparently was higher. “Made in USA” is becoming a popular thing that everyone is trying to support and advertise. It is good that the number has increased but unfortunately that number is increasing very slowly, it is hard to make that big of a transition so it will take time. It is definitely not surprising that China is the head supplier to the US because we have been partners for such a long time and since China is rising to become better it is no surprise that the US is continuing this partnership. As stated in class the job market is shifting in a different ways. Because of technology in this industry people are going to more retailing jobs. But it surprised me that the department store retailers are decreasing while the specialty stores are increasing. It makes sense why US consumers are paying higher taxes on imported clothing, is because it is getting expensive. We should be doing more of the Made in USA products instead of buying from other developing/ developed countries.

  2. I really like how simple and spelled out these facts are because as someone who came into this course not knowing what to expect or kind of hesitant because I didn’t know if I would find this stuff interesting/hard I look back on this article from the beginning of the semester and I shouldn’t have been so scared. As it is now the end of the semester it’s fun to look back at this article and see these facts and know exactly what they are talking about. I understand what they all mean because we have gone over these topics in class and throughout the semester.

    The numbers in this article are really interesting to read about. I like that after a semester of class that I can read this and understand it. I find it interesting that the jobs in the US have shifted form manufacturing to apparel because of the amount that we are importing these days. Since we are one of the leading countries in exporting textile goods like fibers and fabrics I found it surprising that the jobs aren’t growing. It makes sense that the apparel industry jobs are growing because the jobs in the retailing part of the T&A industry are booming.

  3. The apparel and footwear industry is something that will always be needed, no matter what the economy looks like people still need to be clothed. However I do believe that the industry has to change to accommodate global financial situations, the needs may change but they will never go away completely. These statistics support this idea, and may be surprising to anyone who hasn’t taken TMD433. The data supports the idea that as the economic state of the US improves, sales of apparel and footwear increase. As sales increase, more and more jobs are then added to the industry. While adapting to the economic lows of the US for the apparel and footwear industry to be successful, it is still necessary for the US to have low costs in production making it easier to their production overseas. Overall the economic status of the US is growing stronger, thus benefiting the apparel and footwear industry while still being economically conscious having low cost.

  4. After taking this course I have understood more as to why US consumers are still relying on imports. I think product development is important within our own country, but when it comes to time, money and being able to provide employment for people all over the world, importing is just one of the ultimate solutions. Like stated, “China still accounts for 42.5% of US apparel imports in terms of quantity and 39.1% in terms of value–almost the highest level in history”. A similar topic to bring up is the current election. Donald Trump has intentions of cutting off relationships with China completely; do these large percentages mean anything to him? I wonder what direction our country would head in if this happened. Personally, I believe it is vital for us to keep our relationship with China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: