US Apparel Sourcing Trends to Watch in 2021

Key points:

  • Key themes in 2021: COVID-19+ trade policy
  • U.S. apparel imports continue to rebound, but uncertainty remains
  • Asia will remain the dominant apparel sourcing base
  • U.S. fashion companies are NOT giving up China as one of their essential apparel-sourcing bases, although companies continue to reduce their “China exposure” overall. Meanwhile, do NOT underestimate the impact of non-economic factors on sourcing.
  • No clear evidence suggests near sourcing from the Western Hemisphere is happening in a large scale
  • Watch Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). These two mega-free trade agreements could shape new textile and apparel supply chains in the Asia-Pacific region.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

8 thoughts on “US Apparel Sourcing Trends to Watch in 2021”

  1. Do you think that the U.S will ever give up China for their essential apparel sourcing? They are trying to reduce “China Exposure”, so do they want to in the future get rid of them for good? I don’t think they should even reduce it, I think China is a huge part of our apparel sourcing and I don’t think it would be the same without them.

    1. I can absolutely see where you are coming from. However, I think that the issue that so many industries, especially the apparel industry, are facing, is a huge dependency on China. So when unprecedented events occur such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have to either suffer or completely alter the way in which things are done.

  2. Do you think that if the United States chooses to develop a new supply chain, it will be more good than bad for the United States? Because I believe that the development of a new supply chain requires building trust with new suppliers and new supply models and systems. This will consume a lot of time and money.

  3. 2021 is an interesting year for the industry. The introduction of the pandemic is impacting the T&A industry in ways that could have never been predicted. One of the impacts of the pandemic is that the valuation of US apparel imports from China is far higher than any other country. Consumer apparel needs have changed over the past year. Consumers went from needing clothing for a multitude of events to needing basics such as loungewear and athleisure to stay at home. There is a huge push within the industry to bring production home. In the same respect, this concept is one that is easily debatable. On one end, producing overseas in a country like China provides the US consumer with the lowest cost possible for the highest possible quality. However, the US industry suffers. China also has a blatant disregard when it comes to their labor standards and regulations. This issue sits at the root of the US-China Trade War. The solution to this issue is unclear. We have seen the imports from China fall in 2020, because of tariffs and threats to a companies survival. In my personal opinion, it is of utmost importance that manufacturing returns to the US in some way shape or form. Without manufacturing, the US risks economic collapse. In the article below, published by Forbes in 2018, it discusses the complexity of bringing jobs back to the US. It is not that simple, as the US has fallen behind other countries when it comes to innovation.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/krisztinaholly/2018/01/31/trump-state-of-the-union-8-myths-of-manufacturing/?sh=7b5437093a40

    1. I am commenting about the affect of Covid-19 on the New Sourcing in 2021 and the future and how it will have an affect on new sourcing overall throughout trade markets. Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the fashion and apparel industry ever since the first country locked down in the beginning of 2020. The pandemic caused issues like factory shut down, sourcing cancellations, and a holt on many supply chains throughout the world. Specifically in Asia, things that gave them a struggle were lockdown measures by the government, textile raw material availability, and overall export competitiveness Producers in China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh have experienced similar but distinct commercial obstacles and opportunities in these three areas. Since Asia was on lockdown and they are a huge exporter of apparel it caused a lot of issues with sourcing apparel to other countries. And I think a lot of countries and fashion companies shifted their sourcing strategies from Asia because of Covid-19. I think this because countries like Japan and China were on lockdown for a while and factories where apparel is made were shut down for a while and Asia’s export rates dropped tremendously so fashion companies needed to find other ways to continue to thrive during the pandemic.

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