When searching for “footwear” and “shoes”, the Import Genius international trade database of over 79 million shipping records produces over 1 million results between these two search terms. It’s not surprising then, that shoes rank #8 on the list for the top 10 most searched products in the Import Genius database. Shoes are clearly a highly imported product.

According to a recent press release by IBISWorld, fewer companies are manufacturing shoes within the United States and only focusing domestic activity on wholesale and footwear design. Given this information, we wanted to find out exactly which countries are producing most of the shoes imported by the U.S.

IBISWorld also stated that most large footwear organizations already use overseas manufacturing for their products. We looked into several well-known footwear brands and found thousands of records in the Import Genius database. Nike has nearly 76,000 shipments on record, Adidas has over 46,000, and Reebok has over 16,000 all dating back to November 2006. Because Nike’s import volume far exceeds that of other shoe brands, we dug deeper into their supply chain. Looking through 5,000 recent Nike shipments it appears the brand’s top suppliers are in China, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Vietnam, one of the largest footwear export countries to the U.S. and EU second to China, has seen increased demand for manufacturing recently according to Vietnam’s Sai Gon Giai Phong Newspaper.  Demand from the EU, Japan and the U.S. have called for more workers to complete large outgoing orders. The Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association says the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is currently in negotiations, is expected to further increase the number of orders once passed. The passing of the TPP means the 14.3 percent import tariff the US market currently pays will reduce to zero.

To understand the increase in orders placed with Vietnam suppliers over the last few months, we compared quarterly results for this year and last. In the first quarter of 2013, nearly 327 shipments containing the term ‘footwear’ or ‘shoes’ weighing in at nearly 7.1  million pounds were imported into the U.S. from Vietnam. Weight results were less by half a million pounds for the first quarter in 2012, with 314 shipments carrying a weight of 6.6 million pounds. Overall, 35.7 million pounds contained in 1,700 shipments were received from Vietnam throughout last year.

The import activity of the popular shoe brand Clarks, of C & J Clark International Ltd., validates the notion that more and more U.S. shoe brands are sourcing their products from overseas. Looking at shipments from 2011, Clarks imported only 10 shipments via ocean freight from Vietnam throughout the year weighing in at less than 167,000 pounds. However, Clarks increased their imports from Vietnam by over 800% in 2012 with 99 shipments containing more than 2.4 million pounds clearing customs last year.

As it’s becoming more common for shoe retailers to source their products from overseas, we expect that shoe imports will continue to reach the the U.S. by the thousands via ocean freight transport. This coupled with the notion that tariffs will reduce could mean even bigger business for overseas shoe suppliers. Foreign suppliers could see a significant increase in demand as new trade agreements solidify in the next few years.

Sources:Shoe and Footwear Manufacturing in the US Industry Market Research Report Now Available from IBISWorld

Footwear Exports See Abundant Orders