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Footwear

Footwear

Changes in 2020 from 2019:

  • U.S. total exports of footwear: Decreased by $501 million (30.6 percent) to $1.1 billion
    • U.S. domestic exports of footwear: Decreased by $335 million (29.6 percent) to $798 million
    • U.S. re-exports of footwear: decreased by $166 million (32.9 percent) to $338 million
  • U.S. general imports of footwear: Decreased by $6.4 billion (23.7 percent) to $20.7 billion

The value of U.S. domestic exports of footwear[1] products dropped by $335 million (29.6 percent) to $798 million from 2019 to 2020 (table FW.1).[2] Domestic exports made up $798 million (70.2 percent) of total exports, while re-exports (foreign exports) contributed the remaining $338 million. Leading export destinations included Vietnam, to which exports (primarily footwear parts) fell by $68 million (24.9 percent) in 2020; China, to which domestic exports decreased by $91 million (34.8 percent); and Canada, to which exports fell by $34 million (21.9 percent).

The value of U.S. general imports of footwear products decreased by $6.4 billion (23.7 percent) to $20.7 billion from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, imported footwear accounted for about 96 to 99 percent of the total U.S. market for footwear.[3] The drop in U.S. imports was due to transportation disruptions and lower consumer demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the rate of U.S. consumer spending on clothing and footwear fell by 7.7 percent in 2020.[5] Total consumer spending on footwear in 2020 is estimated at $76.9 billion.[6] 

Although China remained the largest supplier of footwear to the United States (table FW.2), its exports to the United States reached a 21-year low in 2020. China accounted for $8.7 billion (42.3 percent) of total U.S. footwear imports in 2020, but its market share has steadily fallen in recent years, from 57.8 percent in 2016. In contrast, the respective shares of other Asian suppliers—Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia—continued to climb in 2020. U.S. imports from Italy and Mexico, suppliers of high-quality leather footwear,[7] also decreased in 2020, falling $242 million (15.4 percent) and $112 million (25.4 percent), respectively, from 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for the footwear industry both domestically and abroad. Low consumer spending on footwear, the closing of factories in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, and shipping delays contributed to lower imports and exports in 2020.[8]

U.S. Domestic Exports

The COVID-19 pandemic led to many U.S. states closing nonessential businesses in spring 2020, which resulted in heavy losses for domestic manufacturers.[9] Domestic exports of footwear fell by 29.6 percent in 2020 over the previous year.

Re-exports represent approximately a third of the U.S. total exports of footwear. Re-exports share of U.S. total exports fell slightly in 2020, declining from 30.8 percent in 2019 to 29.8 percent in 2020, continuing a downward trend that began in 2016, when the re-exports share of total U.S. exports was 42.4 percent. Canada and Mexico continued to be the largest markets for re-exports, accounting for 48.4 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively, of total U.S. re-exports in 2020.

For the seventh consecutive year, Vietnam, China, and Canada were the top three export markets for U.S. producers, accounting for 25.8 percent ($206 million), 21.4 percent ($171 million), and 15.0 percent ($120 million), respectively, of U.S. exports of footwear by value in 2020. U.S. domestic exports to these top markets, however, fell dramatically from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, U.S. exports to China fell the most by value, dropping 34.8 percent ($91 million). The type of footwear exports varied by destination country. For example, 96.2 percent of U.S. exports of footwear to Vietnam consisted of footwear parts, whereas footwear parts comprised only 4.3 percent of U.S. exports to Canada.[10] Vietnam does not have a significant supply of the inputs for footwear such as leather or rubber and therefore must source those products from other countries.[11] Exports of footwear parts to China comprised 33.9 percent of total U.S. exports of footwear to that country.

U.S. General Imports

Most footwear consumed in the United States is imported. Footwear production is highly labor intensive and thus usually occurs in countries with low labor costs, such as China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.[12] Exceptions to this include footwear from Italy, which produces high-quality leather shoes.[13] 

China continued to be the largest supplier of footwear to the United States in 2020 (table FW.2). U.S. imports from China, however, fell by $4.7 billion (35.0 percent) to $8.7 billion in 2020, and China’s share of total U.S. imports declined from 49.6 percent to 42.3 percent during 2019–20. In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many footwear factories in China temporarily closed in the first few months of 2020.[14] Additionally, over the past decade, U.S. footwear firms have been diversifying their sourcing, shifting predominantly to other low-cost Asian suppliers because of China’s rising wage rates and the tariffs imposed by the United States on certain Chinese goods under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.[15] China has also been reducing investment incentives for its footwear, textiles, and apparel sectors, and shifting focus to high-tech industries.[16]

Vietnam has become a major supplier of footwear to the United States due to growth in its domestic industry and a partial shift away from China as a global sourcing country, and now ranks as the second-largest supplier of footwear imports to the United States. However, U.S. imports from Vietnam also decreased in 2020, falling by $490 million (7.0 percent) to $6.5 billion (table FW.2); even so, the decline in imports was much smaller compared with other supplying countries.[17] Vietnam has experienced a growing market share in the global footwear industry. Nike, for instance, sources most of its footwear from Vietnam; Adidas also sources a significant share from Vietnamese producers.[18] Vietnam’s footwear industry faces some constraints as it is currently operating at 90 percent of capacity, leaving limited reserve capacity for more production.[19]

U.S. imports from Indonesia, another low-cost and increasingly important Asian supplier of footwear to the U.S. market, decreased by $286 million (17.3 percent) in 2020. Similarly, imports from Italy, a country known for its high-quality leather footwear, decreased by $242 million (15.4 percent) in 2020. U.S. imports from Cambodia, however, increased in 2020 by $15 million (3.1 percent), as the country has become another popular alternative to China due to its low labor costs and expanding infrastructure.[20] Of the top 20 footwear suppliers to the United States, only Cambodia and Burma increased their exports to the United States in 2020 compared to 2019.

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[1] The Footwear sector consists of 1 digest. Each USITC sector digest encompasses various 8-digit subheadings in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States. For a complete list of HTS subheadings classified in a particular sector or digest, see this data table.

[2] Except where otherwise noted, the export data used in this section are for domestic exports. For more information on trade terminology, please refer to USITC, “Special Topic: Trade Metrics,” Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2014, June 2015.

[3] Domestically produced footwear supplied the remaining 1 to 4 percent of the U.S. market. Examples of domestically produced footwear include athletic shoes, protective footwear, and rubber-based shoes such as rubber boots or sandals. Ristoff, “Shoe & Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 3; Gary Raines and Thomas Crockett (FDRA), telephone interview by USITC staff, May 27, 2021.

[4] Ristoff, “Shoe & Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 9. For more information on transportation disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, see the Special Topic section of this report.

[5] USDOC, BEA, “Personal Consumption Expenditures,” June 24, 2021, table 2.3.1.

[6] Consumer spending is calculated based on the retail value of footwear, which is several times greater than the U.S. import value. USDOC, BEA, “Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product,” June 24, 2021, table 2.4.5U. FDRA, “Footwear Retail,” accessed June 9, 2021.

[7] FDRA, “Mexican Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021; FDRA, “US—Italian Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021.

[8] Ristoff, “Shoe & Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 44; Bell, “Coronavirus Is Creating Short-Term Shipping Delays,” April 24, 2020.

[9] Ristoff, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 12.

[10] Footwear parts are exported under HS heading 6406. Most footwear parts exported to Vietnam were exported under statistical reporting number HTS 6406.90.9500.

[11] Gary Raines and Thomas Crockett (FDRA), email message to USITC staff, July 1, 2021.

[12] Ristoff, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 10–11.

[13] Ristoff, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 11.

[14] Thomas, “US footwear Imports from China,” March 11, 2020.

[15] Ristoff, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” April 2021, 21; FDRA, “US—Chinese Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021.

[16] Viet Nam News, “A Billion Pairs of Shoes Exported,” March 22, 2019.

[17] FDRA, “US—Vietnamese Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021.

[18] Chapman, “Vietnam becomes Main Manufacturer,” May 16, 2020.

[19] FDRA, “US—Vietnamese Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021; Gary Raines and Thomas Crockett (FDRA), telephone interview by USITC staff, May 27, 2021.

[20] FDRA, “Cambodian Shoe Production Snapshot,” accessed April 26, 2021.

Bibliography - Footwear

Bell, Jennie. “Coronavirus is Creating Short-Term Shipping Delays That Could Have Permanent Consequences for Retailers.” Footwear News (blog), April 24, 2020. https://footwearnews.com/2020/business/retail/online-shipping-delays-coronavirus-retail-impact-1202972727/.

Chapman, Sophie. “Vietnam Becomes Main Manufacturer for Adidas and Nike Footwear.” Manufacturing Global, May 16, 2020. https://manufacturingglobal.com/procurement-and-supply-chain/vietnam-becomes-main-manufacturer-adidas-and-nike-footwear.

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “Cambodian Shoe Production Snapshot.” 2021 Global Shoe Sourcing Summit. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.shoesourcingsummit.com/data (fee required).

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “Mexican Shoe Production Snapshot.” 2021 Global Shoe Sourcing Summit. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.shoesourcingsummit.com/data (fee required).

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “Footwear Retail.” Accessed June 6, 2021. https://fdra.org/key-issues-and-advocacy/footwear-retail/.

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “US—Chinese Shoe Production Snapshot.” 2021 Global Shoe Sourcing Summit. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.shoesourcingsummit.com/data (fee required).

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “US—Italian Shoe Production Snapshot.” 2021 Global Shoe Sourcing Summit. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.shoesourcingsummit.com/data (fee required).

Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA). “US—Vietnamese Shoe Production Snapshot.” 2021 Global Shoe Sourcing Summit. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.shoesourcingsummit.com/data (fee required).

Ristoff, Jared. “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US.” IBISWorld. April 2021. https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/shoe-footwear-manufacturing-industry/ (subscription required)

Thomas, Lauren. “US Footwear Imports from China Just Had Their Worst January in a Decade.” CNBC, March 11, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/coronavirus-us-shoe-imports-from-china-see-worst-january-in-decade.html.

U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC), Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). “Personal Consumption Expenditures.” June 24, 2021. Table 2.3.1. https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=19&step=3&isuri=1&nipa_table_list=61&categories=survey.

U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC), U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). “Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product.” June 24, 2021. Table 2.4.5U. https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=19&step=3&isuri=1&nipa_table_list=2017&categories=underlying.

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). “Special Topic: Trade Metrics,” Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2014. Investigation No. 332-345. USITC Publication 4536. Washington, DC: USITC, June 2015. https://www.usitc.gov/research_and_analysis/trade_shifts_2014/trade_metrics.htm.

Viet Nam News. “A Billion Pairs of Shoes Exported.” March 22, 2019. http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/507560/a-billion-pairs-of-shoes-exported.html.