Garment exports to US fall 1.12pc
Apparel exports to the US fell 1.12 percent to $2.18 billion in the first five months of 2014 from the same period last year, according to the US Department of Commerce.
Garment exporters attributed the sluggish trend to fallout from the Rana Plaza building collapse and political turmoil that struck Bangladesh last year.
Some retailers may shift focus from Bangladesh to other destinations, said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Bangladesh's exports to the US may rebound by December when international and domestic factory inspectors will complete their inspections, he said.
“So far, the outcomes of the inspections show that the factories are not so much vulnerable as it was thought earlier. So buyers' confidence is rebuilding now.”
US chain-store sales posted a strong gain of 5.9 percent year-on-year for the month of June, according to a report by the New York-based research firm International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC).
“Overall retail sales performance was healthy and strong in June, following a sluggish winter, with consumers shopping for staple items, and modest spending on non-essential items like apparel,” said Michael Niemira, research consultant for ICSC.
Bangladesh was the sixth largest sourcing country for the US, while China remained on the top of the list by exporting $14.48 billion of textiles and apparel.
In January-May, the US imported textiles and apparel items worth $40.96 billion, which is 2.35 percent higher compared with the same period last year.
In apparel (woven and knitwear) category, Bangladesh's exports declined 1.69 percent to $2.08 billion.
Bangladesh was the third largest exporter in the category after China and Vietnam in the first five months to May in 2014, according to the US Department of Commerce.
In miscellaneous apparel category, Bangladesh's exports to the US increased by 14 percent to $90 million in January-May period from the same a-year-ago period.
The volume of cotton apparel imports into the US fell 12.7 percent year-on-year in May, continuing its 1.6 percent April drop, Bloomberg said in a report.
China remains the largest exporter of cotton products to the US, shipping 258.5 million square metres in May. Its 7.3 percent decline trails a 3.6 percent drop in Bangladesh and a 9.3 percent increase in Vietnam, according to the report.
Apparel companies continue to shift production from China and Bangladesh in an effort to offset growing labour costs, the report said.
The International Monetary Fund recently revised its estimate for economic growth in the United States, saying the weak first quarter means the country's gross domestic product will rise 2 percent this year rather than the 2.8 percent it predicted earlier.
The unemployment rate has been dropping steadily as employers add more workers. With more people in the workforce, there is more money to spend on clothing, cars and other consumer items, economists noted.
Generally, Bangladesh exports apparel items worth a little above $5 billion a year to the US market.
Exporters pay 15.61 percent duty to export garment items to the US, the single largest export destination for Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi garment exporters paid $828 million as duty to the US customs last year and $3.41 billion in the last five years, according to the commerce ministry.