Chinas apparel prices remain lower than its nearest rival Vietnam

China's apparel prices remain lower than its nearest rival Vietnam

For all the claims that US apparel buyers are seeking alternative sources to China amid concerns it is losing its competitiveness, new data suggests otherwise, with the country's prices lower now than six years ago.

An analysis of the latest figures from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) shows China's apparel prices fell by 7.4% to an average of US$2.49 per square metre equivalent (SME) in 2016, compared to $2.69 per SME in 2010. This makes it the only country among the top ten apparel importers into the US to have seen an average drop in prices over the last six years.

During the past six years China's prices reached a peak in 2011 at $3.02 per SME, but have seen a gradual decline since.

China also remains the largest supplier of apparel to the US, accounting for 41.5% of the total, helped by the size of its supply base, its range of skills, its quality levels, its product variety and the completeness of its supply chain.

China's apparel prices remain lower than those of the second-largest US apparel supplier Vietnam, which came in at $3.22 per SME last year and are 4.5% higher than in 2010. 


Meanwhile, Bangladesh, the third largest apparel supplier to the US, has seen its prices rise 15.9% from $2.45 to $2.84 per SME over the last six years. Likewise, Cambodia has seen prices increase, albeit only slightly, from $2.35 in 2010 to $2.37 per SME. India's prices have increased 9.1% from $3.20 to $3.49 per SME in 2016.

Of the top ten apparel suppliers to the US, Honduras has seen the largest increase in pricing, rising 24.2% from $1.90 in 2010 to $2.36 per SME last year, followed by El Salvador, which has seen its prices rise from $2 to $2.35 in 2016.

The figures show that apparel shipments from Mexico to the US last year were the most expensive of the top-ten supplier countries at $3.87 per SME, followed by Indonesia at $3.71 per SME.

Average price (US$) per SME

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Percentage change (2010-2016)
China 2.69 3.02 2.94 2.87 2.76 2.68 2.49 -7.4
Vietnam 3.08 3.32 3.31 3.34 3.37 3.37 3.22 4.5
Bangladesh 2.45 2.93 2.94 2.92 3 2.89 2.84 15.9
Indonesia 3.51 3.86 3.91 3.94 3.88 3.91 3.71 5.7
Honduras 1.9 2.21 2.29 2.33 2.38 2.4 2.36 24.2
India 3.2 3.69 3.64 3.63 3.55 3.58 3.49 9.1
Cambodia 2.35 2.5 2.44 2.4 2.43 2.36 2.37 0.8
Mexico 3.72 4.02 4.12 4.05 4.07 3.96 3.87 4
El Salvador 2 2.22 2.33 2.33 2.41 2.4 2.35 17.5
Pakistan 2.14 2.64 2.53 2.53 2.49 2.43 2.36 10.3