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Target backs backpacks as back-to-school clothing imports slide

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Target backs backpacks as back-to-school clothing imports slide

The U.S. retail sector is continuing to recover, with sales up by 8.5% year over year as discussed in Panjiva's report of Aug. 17. Its continued health will, in part, depend on the back-to-school shopping season, which has been heavily disrupted by COVID-19.

Retailers also face disruption to the key back-to-school season, with an AdColony survey indicating that 86% of shoppers plan to spend under $500 compared to 76% a year earlier. 

That is something of a contrast to earlier National Retail Federation assertions that there could be a 26% surge in spending as parents look to secure computers and other electronics to help home-schooling. Adapting to reduced in-person attendance may also alter the purchasing mix within apparel. 

The weak performance of sales in the apparel sector in retail sales is one sign that spending patterns have shifted. Another is that U.S. seaborne imports of children's footwear dropped by 44.1% and apparel by 29.4% year over year in July, continuing a slump seen at similar rates in the second quarter, Panjiva's data shows. 

Shipments of backpacks, meanwhile, actually improved by 5.4% after dropping by 22.9% previously. That may reflect a relaxation of lockdowns and the use of the product for outdoor pursuits rather than just for school. Laptop computers, driven by work-from-home as well as school-from-home trends, meanwhile continued to surge, with imports up 6.1% in July after a 14.4% surge in the second quarter.

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The improvement in backpack imports was not widespread, however. Shipments linked to retailer Target Corp. surged by nearly 600%, likely reflecting restocking after a prolonged downturn. Imports associated with adidas AG distributor Agron Inc., meanwhile, improved 32.7% in July after slumping in the first half of the year. V.F. Corp., owner of the North Face outdoor brand, among others, has continued to struggle, with shipments associated with the firm down 40.6% in July.

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Christopher Rogers is a senior researcher at Panjiva, which is a business line of S&P Global Market Intelligence, a division of S&P Global Inc. This content does not constitute investment advice, and the views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Links are current at the time of publication. S&P Global Market Intelligence is not responsible if those links are unavailable later.