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Footwear

Laura Venecia Rodriguez
(202) 205-3499
laura.rodriguez@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total exports of footwear: increased by $62.0 million (4.5 percent) to $1.4 billion
  • U.S. general imports of footwear: increased by $20 million (0.1 percent) to $25.7 billion

In 2017, U.S. total exports of footwear, a category that includes footwear parts, increased by $62.0 million (4.5 percent) (table FW.1). Leading export destinations included Vietnam, to which exports (primarily footwear parts) rose sharply by $63 million to $179 million (54.3 percent); Canada, to which exports fell by $10 million to $155 million (6.3 percent); and China, to which exports (primarily footwear parts and athletic shoes) rose by $22 million  to $102 million (27.2 percent). Imports supplied 99 percent of the U.S. footwear market,[1] and these saw a slight increase of $20 million (0.1 percent) to $25.7 billion.

Table FW.1: Footwear: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
44
48
76
80
102
22
27.2
    Vietnam
60
86
104
116
179
63
54.3
    Indonesia
9
12
24
29
29
(a)
-0.8
    Italy
4
4
6
4
8
5
127.9
    Mexico
44
49
42
40
36
-4
-9.7
    India
3
2
3
1
2
(a)
30.0
    Dominican Rep
21
16
11
9
7
-2
-22.2
    Cambodia
(a)
(a)
(a)
0
0
0
0.0
    Spain
2
3
4
2
3
(a)
7.9
    Canada
126
139
150
165
155
-10
-6.3
    All other
476
467
429
341
337
-5
-1.3
        Total domestic exports
789
827
848
788
857
69
8.7
Foreign exports
602
629
616
579
572
-7
-1.2
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign)
1,391
1,456
1,464
1,368
1,430
62
4.5
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
17,016
17,066
17,276
14,821
14,255
-566
-3.8
    Vietnam
2,931
3,623
4,474
4,911
5,526
614
12.5
    Indonesia
1,155
1,235
1,426
1,462
1,509
47
3.2
    Italy
1,330
1,444
1,408
1,358
1,371
13
1.0
    Mexico
549
499
493
413
427
14
3.5
    India
297
349
468
503
448
-55
-10.9
    Dominican Rep
274
297
327
312
271
-42
-13.3
    Cambodia
59
128
218
255
271
16
6.3
    Spain
186
213
224
243
234
-9
-3.8
    Canada
47
59
73
50
52
2
4.1
    All other
967
1,106
1,264
1,306
1,291
-15
-1.1
        Total general imports
24,811
26,018
27,650
25,634
25,654
20
0.1

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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 countries 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.      

Although China remained the largest supplier of footwear to the United States, accounting for over one-half of total U.S. footwear imports in 2017, its share fell from 57.8 percent in the previous year to 55.6 percent. In contrast, the shares of lower-cost Asian suppliers such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia rose in 2017. U.S. imports from Italy and Mexico, suppliers primarily of leather footwear, also increased in 2017.[2]                                                                                                        

In 2017, imported footwear supplied an estimated 98 to 99 percent of the total U.S. market for footwear.[3] On average, 7.3 new pairs of shoes per person are imported into the U.S. market annually,[4] and total consumer spending on footwear is an estimated $80.2 billion.[5]  However, U.S. consumer spending on footwear rose by just under 1 percent between 2016 and 2017.[6] During the past few years, industry representatives have noted shifts in discretionary spending by U.S. consumers from goods such as apparel and footwear to expenditures on experiences and travel. This shift may explain, in part, the slowdown in growth of U.S. imports of footwear.[7] Imports are also affected by the various styles and trends followed by consumers. For example, the “athleisure” trend continues to dominate U.S. consumer spending on athletic footwear: sales of athletic footwear grew 2 percent to $19.6 billion in 2017, and sport leisure is the largest category in athletic footwear.[8] 

U.S. Exports[9]

Total U.S. exports of footwear, consisting of domestic exports and re-exports (foreign exports),[10] fluctuated during 2013–17, rising by 4.5 percent in 2017 over the previous year. During the same period, the share of total U.S. exports accounted for by foreign exports fell from 43 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2017.[11] Canada and Mexico are the largest markets for foreign exports, accounting for 60 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of total U.S. foreign exports in 2017.[12] 

U.S. exports are estimated to account for over one-quarter of U.S. footwear industry revenue.[13] American-made shoes, which supplied only about 1 percent of the U.S. footwear market in 2017, have a global reputation for competing on quality rather than price and for serving specialized niche markets such as work-specific or premium high-end footwear.[14] Vietnam, Canada, and China were the top three export markets for U.S. producers, accounting for 12.5 percent ($179 million), 10.8 percent ($155 million), and 7.1 percent ($102 million), respectively, of U.S. domestic exports of footwear by value in 2017. 

While both Vietnam and China were growth markets for U.S. footwear exports, their trade patterns were somewhat different. U.S. exports of footwear to Vietnam grew the fastest in 2017, rising by $63 million (54.3 percent), and Vietnam replaced Canada as the top export market for U.S. footwear. However, while U.S. exports of footwear to Canada encompassed a variety of shoes, including athletic and work footwear, virtually all (99.4 percent) U.S. footwear exports to Vietnam were footwear parts used to assemble shoes for the U.S. market. As discussed earlier, Vietnam has become a growing supplier of footwear to the U.S. market as an alternative to China. U.S. exports of footwear to China also grew in 2017; over one-half (56.2 percent) were also footwear parts used to assemble shoes for the U.S. market. However, almost one-third ($33.7 million) of U.S. footwear exports to China were athletic shoes for the Chinese consumer market. Growth in Chinese demand for quality U.S. athletic shoes can likely be attributed to the rising disposable income of China’s large population and Chinese consumers’ growing interest in health and an active lifestyle.[15]

U.S. Imports

Because footwear production is highly labor intensive, U.S. footwear firms have moved most of their production and sourcing of footwear to developing countries where labor costs are significantly lower than those in the United States.[16] Although U.S. footwear firms have retained and focused on the high-value-added design, marketing, and distribution of shoes in the United States,[17] the U.S. industry has continued to shrink as U.S. footwear companies increasingly rely on foreign sources to manufacture their goods.[18]

Table FW.2: Footwear: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change, 
2016–17
Percent
change, 
2016–17
U.S. domestic exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        FW001      Footwear
789
827
848
788
857
69
8.7
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        FW001      Footwear
24,811
26,018
27,650
25,634
25,654
20
0.1
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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.

China continued to be the largest supplier of footwear to the United States in 2017. U.S. imports from China, however, fell by almost 4 percent to $14.3 billion in 2017, and China’s share of total U.S. imports declined to 56 percent. The continued slowdown in U.S. imports from China reflects the country's ongoing manufacturing challenges in recent years—rising labor costs because of strong economic growth, increasing freight costs, and competition from other Asian suppliers with lower production costs.[19] The slowdown in U.S. imports from China in 2017 may also be attributed to the uncertain business environment and the possibility of new U.S. tariffs on a wide range of products from China.[20]

U.S. imports from Vietnam, the second-largest U.S. supplier, have grown rapidly in recent years. In 2017, U.S. imports from Vietnam rose by $614 million (13 percent) to $5.5 billion. Major footwear companies like Nike, which manufactures virtually all of its footwear overseas, have increasingly relocated production from China to other Asian suppliers such as Vietnam and Indonesia.[21] For fiscal year 2017, Nike reported that Vietnam manufactured 46 percent of its total branded footwear, compared to 27 percent for China.[22] Another growing low-cost Asian supplier of footwear to the U.S. market is Cambodia; U.S. imports from Cambodia rose from $59 million in 2013 to $271 million in 2017.[23]

Whereas Asian producers largely supply less expensive shoes,[24] manufacturers in Italy, the fourth-largest supplier of footwear to the U.S. market in 2017, specialize in high-quality, high-value leather designer footwear.[25] In 2017, U.S. footwear imports from Italy rose by 1 percent in 2017 to almost $1.4 billion.

 


[1] Polk, “How American Footwear Companies Are Innovating,” April 18, 2018.  

[2] The increase in U.S. imports of footwear from Italy and Mexico, which tend to be higher-end products, may be the result of a growing preference among U.S. consumers for products that offer value, quality, and durability rather than cost.  Segran, “These Fashion Startups Offer the Prestige,” January 24, 2017.

[3] Polk, “How American Footwear Companies Are Innovating,” April 18, 2018; U.S. footwear industry representative, email message to USITC staff, April 16, 2018.

[4] Polk, “How American Footwear Companies Are Innovating,” April 18, 2018.  

[5] Polk, “How American Footwear Companies Are Innovating,” April 18, 2018.

[6] USDOC, BEA, “Personal Consumption Expenditures,” April 2018, table 2.4.5U.

[7] Quinlan, “State of American Retail—Mastercard Insights,” May 11, 2017. Industry experts have stated that recently U.S. consumers consider spending on footwear and fashion accessories less of a priority. NPD Group, “Shift in Footwear and Accessories Spending,” April 17, 2017,

[8] NPD Group, “U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Sales Grew,” February 6, 2018.

[9] As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.

[10] Re-exports (foreign exports) are goods shipped primarily to neighboring markets through U.S. foreign-trade zones to take advantage of the cost savings and operational efficiencies of importing and distributing products free of duty into the United States. USITC, “Footwear,” in Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade 2015, 2016.

[11] This decline in re-exports may be attributed to increased use of third-party logistics providers, resulting in more direct shipments to Canada, and to changes in company priorities. U.S. footwear industry representative, email message to USITC staff, May 7, 2018.

[12] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed May 2 and 7, 2018). 

[13] IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 17.

[14] IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 5, 8, 9, 17. Industry sources report that suppliers of higher-end footwear, such as the United States, Italy, and France, are likely to benefit over the next few years as demand for luxury footwear continues to expand. IBISWorld, Global Footwear Manufacturing, July 2017, 6.

[15]Hancock, “China’s Fitness Boom Energizes Sportswear Brands,” March 20, 2017; HKTDC Research, “China’s Footwear Market,” September 29, 2017. 

[16] IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 5.

[17] IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 8.

[18] The number of U.S. footwear workers is estimated to have fallen from 13,958 to 12,782 (8.3 percent) between 2013 and 2017; the number of domestic footwear manufacturing establishments is estimated to have contracted from 278 to 275 during the same period. The 2017 data are based on preliminary statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. USDOL, BLS, “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages,” April 2018.

[19] IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 16, 17; IBISWorld, Global Footwear Manufacturing, July 2017, 6, 15.

[20] Bjørn Gulden is CEO of Puma SE, a German multinational company that designs and manufactures athletic and casual footwear as well as apparel and other products. Bulden stated that potential duties that could be imposed by the United States on Chinese products are forcing Puma to explore alternative sites to manufacture footwear and apparel. Polk, “Puma Prepares to Shift Production from China,” April 25, 2018. In similar fashion, U.S. footwear firms may have slowed down their sourcing from China in 2017 in anticipation of potential tariff hikes on products from China.

[21] Nike, Nike 2017 Form 10-K, July 17, 2017, 57; IBISWorld, Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US, May 2017, 12.

[22] Nike, Nike 2017 Form 10-K, July 17, 2017, 57.

[23] Although Cambodia is still a relatively small supplier of footwear to the U.S. market, its footwear industry appears to be increasingly important to the country’s economy, and the United States is one of its key export markets. Combined with its apparel industry, Cambodia’s footwear industry employs about 700,000 workers and generates an estimated $7 billion per year for the country’s economy. Moreover, Cambodia’s garment industry is lobbying the United States to add footwear to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which would lower or exempt Cambodia from the duty U.S. importers have to pay on footwear from Cambodia. Footwearbiz, “Rise of 180% in Minimum Wage,” October 20, 2017; Russell, “Cambodia Lobbies US for GSP to Include Footwear,” May 1, 2018.

[24] IBISWorld, Global Footwear Manufacturing, July 2017, 6.

[25] Industry sources report recent efforts by U.S. shoe companies to collaborate with Italian footwear factories to offer U.S. consumers access to finely crafted Italian leather footwear. These firms are featuring fashionable shoes at “affordable luxury” prices by investing in new direct-to-consumer business models. Segran, “These Fashion Startups Offer the Prestige,” January 24, 2017.

 

Bibliography

Footwearbiz. “Rise of 180% in Minimum Wage for Cambodian Workers in Six Years.” Just.style.com, October 10, 2017.  http://footwearbiz.com/fullitem.aspx?id=146197 (subscription required).

Hancock, Tom. “China’s Fitness Boom Energizes Sportswear Brands.”  Financial Times, March 20, 2017.  http://www.ft.com/content/ea7ca9ac-040f-11e7-ace0-1ce02ef0def9.

Hong Kong Trade Development Council. “China’s Footwear Market,” September 20, 2017.  http://china-trade-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/China-Consumer-Market/China-s-Footwear-Market/ccm/en/1/1X000000/1X002MPH.htm

IBISWorld. Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the U.S. Industry Report 31621, May 2017. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/market-research-reports/manufacturing/leather-allied-product/shoe-footwear-manufacturing.html (fee required).

IBISWorld. Global Footwear Manufacturing. Industry Report, July 2017. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/global-industry-reports/manufacturing/footwear-manufacturing.html (fee required).

Nike. Nike 2017 Form 10-K: Annual Report for Securities and Exchange Commission, May 31, 2017, July 17, 2017. https://s1.q4cdn.com/806093406/files/doc_financials/2017/ar/docs/nike-2017-form-10K.pdf.

NPD Group. “U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Sales Grew 2 Percent to $19.6 Billion in 2017, NPD Group Reports.” Press release, February 6, 2018.  http://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2018/us-athletic-footwear-industry-grew-2-percent-to-19-6-billion-in-2017-npd-group-reports/.

NPD Group. “Shift in Footwear and Accessories Spending Sends Warning Signal for Retail Fashion, Reports NPD.” Press release, April 17, 2017.   https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2017/shift-in-footwear-and-accessories-spending-sends-warning-signal-for-retail-fashion-reports-npd/.

Polk, Andy. “How American Footwear Companies Are Innovating and Its Revolutionary Impact on Global Trade." FDRA presentation to the USITC, April 18, 2018.

Polk, Andy. “Puma Prepares to Shift Production from China over Tariff Concerns.”  News article for Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), April 25, 2018. http://fdra.org/fdra-news/puma-prepares-to-shift-production-from-china-over-tariff-concerns/.

Quinlan, Sarah. “State of American Retail—Mastercard Insights.” United States of Footwear Conference, May 11, 2017.

Russell, Michelle. “Cambodia Lobbies US for GSP to Include Footwear.” Just-Style, May 1, 2018.  http://www.just-style.com/pap.aspx?ID=133424 (fee required).

Segran, Elizabeth. “These Fashion Startups Offer the Prestige of ‘Made in Italy’ without Inflated Prices.” Fast Company, January 24, 2017.  https://www.fastcompany.com/3067010/these-footwear-startups-offer-the-prestige-of-made-in-italy-without-inflat.

U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC). Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). “Table 2.4.5U:  Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product,” April 28, 2018.  http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=12&step=1&acrdn=2#reqid=12&step=3&isuri=1&1203=17.

U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv (accessed March 8, 2018).

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb (DataWeb)/U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC). http://dataweb.usitc.gov (accessed April 30–May 7, 2018).

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2015, 2016. USITC Publication 4641. Washington, DC: USITC, September 2016. https://www.usitc.gov/research_and_analysis/trade_shifts_2015/index.htm.