Footwear

Author: Laura V. Rodriguez
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2014 from 2013:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Increased by $58 million (4 percent) to $1.4 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $1.2 billion (5 percent) to $26.0 billion

In 2014, U.S. total exports of footwear grew by $58 million (4 percent) (table FW.1). Leading export destinations included Vietnam (primarily footwear parts), to which exports grew by $26 million (44 percent), and Canada, to which they grew by $12 million (9 percent). Imports supplied slightly over 98 percent of demand in the U.S. footwear market and rose by $1.2 billion (5 percent) to $26.0 billion in 2014.1 Although China remained by far the largest supplier of footwear to the United States, accounting for 66 percent of all U.S. footwear imports in 2014, its share was down from 69 percent in 2013. The respective shares of lower-cost suppliers, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, grew at China’s expense.2 Also, U.S. imports from Italy, which supplies higher-priced footwear, grew by 8 percent in 2014.

Table FW.1: Footwear: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. exports of domestic exports merchandise:              
China 55 56 47 44 48 3 7.5
Vietnam 47 54 39 60 86 26 43.9
Italy 4 6 4 4 4 1 24.2
Indonesia 7 12 12 9 12 2 26.8
Mexico 79 65 57 44 49 5 11.3
India 4 4 4 3 2 -1 -21.7
Dominican Rep 23 26 26 21 16 -5 -23.8
Spain 3 4 2 2 3 1 73.2
Brazil 2 4 2 2 5 3 214.6
Canada 88 94 117 126 138 12 9.4
All other 417 508 513 474 461 -14 -2.9
Total domestic exports 729 833 824 789 824 35 4.5
Re-exports 377 457 509 603 626 23 3.8
Total U.S. exports (domestic exports and re-exports) 1,105 1,290 1,332 1,391 1,449 58 4.2
U.S. general imports:              
China 15,917 16,723 17,148 17,016 17,066 51 0.3
Vietnam 1,623 2,046 2,410 2,931 3,625 694 23.7
Italy 897 1,116 1,202 1,330 1,438 108 8.2
Indonesia 586 770 940 1,155 1,233 78 6.8
Mexico 319 371 492 549 500 -49 -9
India 178 206 266 297 349 52 17.4
Dominican Rep 172 210 242 274 297 23 8.5
Spain 115 143 164 186 212 27 14.4
Brazil 360 252 210 199 208 8 4.2
Canada 66 55 49 47 58 12 24.7
All other 670 762 763 827 1,026 200 24.1
Total general imports 20,903 22,654 23,887 24,810 26,014 1,203 4.8
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed April 21, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) and in the “Trade Metrics” discussion.

U.S. consumer spending on footwear rose by almost 2 percent between 2013 and 2014.3 Spending on footwear in the work/occupational/safety and outdoor categories (for which “multifunction footwear” has become the buzzword of outdoor enthusiasts4) grew significantly in 2014.5 According to observers, the growth in these categories reflects expanding interest in exercise and health and working consumers’ preference for footwear that is practical, comfortable, and necessary for their jobs.6

U.S. Exports7

Canada, Vietnam, and South Korea8 were the top three export markets for U.S. producers, accounting for 17 percent, 10.4 percent, and 9 percent, respectively, of U.S. domestic exports of footwear by value in 2014. Factors contributing to the strong markets in these countries included the types of shoes involved, their quality, and the strength of the dollar. U.S. domestic exports of footwear to Vietnam rose by the largest percentage (44 percent) and amount, up by $26.0 million to $86.0 million. However, virtually all of the U.S. footwear exported to Vietnam consisted of footwear parts used to assemble footwear for the U.S. market.9 U.S. domestic exports of footwear to Canada grew by $12 million (9 percent) to $138 million, whereas U.S. exports to South Korea fell for a second consecutive year, down by $11.4 million (14 percent) to $72.2 million.10

Exports accounted for a growing source of revenue for domestic footwear manufacturers, totaling an estimated 28 percent of industry revenues in 2014, up from 25 percent in 2009.11 American-made shoes, which supplied 1.5 percent of the U.S. footwear market in 2014, are concentrated in niches—rubber/fabric footwear, men’s work shoes, and plastic/protective footwear. (Most U.S.-made protective footwear features safety steel toes.)12 These products have a reputation for high quality, high value, and durability.13 These factors likely contributed to the recent growth of U.S. domestic exports, as did the depreciation of the U.S. dollar against the currencies of major export markets such as Canada and South Korea during 2010–14.14

Like U.S. domestic exports, total U.S. exports (consisting of domestic exports and re-exports) increased in 2014, rising by 4 percent to $1.4 billion. In recent years, a steady increase in re-exports has been driving much of the growth in total U.S. exports of footwear. Footwear re-exports are primarily sent to neighboring markets. In 2014, re-exports totaled $626 million and accounted for 43 percent of total U.S. exports of footwear, up from $377 million (34 percent) of total U.S. exports of footwear in 2010, respectively, as shown in the following tabulation (millions of dollars):15

           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Footwear (FW001)
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
Re-exports 377 457 509 603 626 23 3.8
Total exports 1,105 1,290 1,332 1,391 1,449 58 4.2
Re-exports' share of U.S. total exports (percent) 34% 35% 38% 43% 43% N/A N/A

Canada and Mexico were the largest re-export markets for footwear, accounting for 57 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of U.S. footwear re-exports in 2014.16

The growth in U.S. re-exports of footwear can be attributed to the significant advantages firms gain by using U.S. foreign-trade zones. These include the cost savings of importing products into the United States free of duty; avoiding the financial burden and paperwork associated with duty drawback;17 the operational efficiencies resulting from streamlining distribution and inventory management within the zones; and the ability to more easily meet U.S. Customs requirements.18

U.S. Imports

The current revival of the U.S. economy likely contributed to the continued growth of U.S. imports of footwear.19 In 2014, these imports rose by $1.2 billion (5 percent) to $26.0 billion.20 Most of this growth was accounted for by low-cost imports from Vietnam (up $694 million) and Indonesia (up $78 million). Vietnam’s footwear industry has benefited from a recent investment in upgraded technology and modernization of its production chain.21 In addition, anticipation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and expected trade preferences for footwear and apparel from Vietnam may have encouraged the growth of U.S. footwear imports from Vietnam in 2014.22

U.S. imports of footwear from Italy, the third-largest supplier of footwear to the United States in 2014, increased $108 million in 2014. Italy is an important supplier to the high-end U.S. market, as Italian footwear producers specialize in making fashionable, high-value, and top-quality shoes (especially women’s luxury footwear).23

China remained by far the largest supplier of footwear to the United States, accounting for 66 percent of U.S. imports in 2014. While this figure was down from 69 percent in 2013, U.S. imports of footwear from China still rose, albeit by less than 1 percent, to $17.1 billion. The slowdown in the growth of U.S. imports from China in recent years reflects U.S. footwear firms relocating production from China to Vietnam, Indonesia, and other lower-cost Asian suppliers.24

China’s footwear industry has been facing rising costs and other challenges—the quadrupling of factory worker wages since 2005, the appreciation of China’s yuan against the U.S. dollar, newly required compliance with environmental laws, and recent labor shortages. Nevertheless, as one industry source notes, China’s dominance in footwear manufacturing is not likely to erode soon: its massive, well-developed footwear production infrastructure remains unequaled.25

For more than a decade U.S. firms have been outsourcing production of footwear, which is highly labor intensive, to low-cost countries, while retaining design, branding, and distribution in the United States.26 In 2014, U.S. imports of footwear grew by 5 percent. Also, an industry source notes that as U.S. producers have relied increasingly on foreign sources for footwear, the U.S. industry has continued to shrink, and some firms have scaled back their operations.27 Between 2009 and 2014, the number of domestic footwear manufacturing establishments fell from 302 to 277 and the workforce decreased from 13,953 to 13,009.28


1 Based on preliminary estimates for 2014. U.S. industry representative, email message to USITC staff, March 3, 2015.
2 Business-in-asia.com, “China Footwear Industry,” n.d. (accessed February 12, 2015).
3 USDOL, BEA, Personal Consumption Expenditures, February 2015, table 2.4.5U.
4 Kaplan, “Where Is the Industry Headed in 2015?” January 19, 2015.
5 Amobi, “Industry Surveys: Apparel and Footwear,” September 2014, 8; NPD Group, “Work/Occupational/Safety and Outdoor Footwear Categories,” December 15, 2014.
6 Ibid.
7 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
8 South Korea does not appear in table FW.1 because the trading partners shown in that table were those that had the largest shifts both in imports and exports.
9 In recent years, Vietnam has become a growing source of footwear manufacturing for U.S. firms such as Nike, Inc. Nike, “Form 10-K,” May 31, 2014. Several U.S. footwear firms also manufacture footwear parts domestically that are then exported to Vietnam, where they are incorporated into footwear manufactured for and sold to the U.S. market. U.S. industry representative, email message to USITC staff, March 16, 2015.
10 U.S. exports to Canada and South Korea comprised a wide variety of footwear, including athletic shoes, house slippers, and protective shoes.
11 IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, September 2014, 12.
12 AAFA, ShoeStats 2014, January 2015, 6; Amobi, “Industry Surveys: Apparel and Footwear,” September 2014, 11.
13 IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, September 2014, 12, 17.
14 Ibid., 17.
15 Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed February 20, 2015).
16 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (commodity group FW001; accessed February 13, 2015).
17 Duty drawbacks are a “refund, reduction or waiver in whole or in part of customs duties assessed or collected upon importation of an article or materials which are subsequently exported.” Customs website, http://www.cbp.gov/trade/nafta/guide-customs-procedures/effect-nafta/en-drawback-duty (accessed March 9, 2015).
18 U.S. industry, government, and foreign-trade zone representatives, telephone interviews with USITC staff on March 3, March 4, March 6, and March 10, 2015.
19 Atwood, “Editor’s Note: Buying Time,” February 16, 2015, 12. Industry sources state that footwear industry revenue has grown annually since 2009 and was expected to grow by almost 2 percent in 2014. IBISWorld, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” September 2014, 5.
20 U.S. industry representative, email message to USITC staff, March 4, 2015.
21 Footwearbiz.com, “Footwear Profits Are Leaving Vietnam,” May 15, 2014.
22 Barrie, “U.S. Footwear Sourcing Shifts Continued in 2015,” February 16, 2015.
23 IBISWorld, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” September 2014, 14; ItalTrade.com, “Luxury Footwear? Made in Italy!” n.d. (accessed on February 5, 2015).
24 Barrie, “U.S. Footwear Sourcing Shifts Continued in 2014,” February 16, 2015; Footwearbiz.com, “Wolverine Worldwide to Shift Production,” November 12, 2014.
25 Mangione, “China Still Rules,” January 13, 2014.
26 IBISWorld, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” September 2014, 5, 7. See preceding section on exports for details on shoes manufactured in the United States.
27 IBISWorld, “Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US,” September 2014, 7.
28 The 2014 data are based on preliminary statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. USDOL, BLS, “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages” (accessed February 2, 2015).