China may be considered the workshop of the world; with the combination of a large manufacturing base, relatively low labor costs and numerous support policies have made China an extremely attractive option for international business. With 1.3 billion people, cheap labor in China seemed unlimited at a time.
Despite its rapid growth in recent decades, many of the advantages that have fueled the expansion of Chinese manufacturing are beginning to deteriorate. Labor and raw material costs in China have seen a steady increase and many commodity-type goods can no longer be competitively sourced from China, such as toys. With Chinese wages rising at about 17% per year and the value of the Yuan continuing to increase, the gap between U.S. and Chinese wages is narrowing rapidly; increasing costs even before inventory and shipping costs are considered.
In a recent article in The Journal of Commerce, PIERS data showed China’s toy imports to the U.S. declined from an 82.4% market share in 2011, to 81.2% in 2012, while the next largest importer, Hong Kong experienced similar decline with its market share slipping to 6.5% from 6.9% a year earlier.
Meanwhile it seems China and Hong Kong’s decline in market share has been spread across a number of much smaller toy exporters. The next largest source of toy imports after China and Hong Kong is Vietnam, which increased its market share position by .2% from 1.3% to 1.5%, which translates to 765 TEUs. Similarly, Germany increased their market share by .4% to 1.1% and showed the most significant increase in terms of import volume with an increase of 1,315 TEUs over the same period last year.
PIERS/JOC, Economist, Mario Moreno, offers a possible explanation for the recent shift in production, “Labor supply in labor-intensive industries is very tight, which has prompted many owners to move their (Chinese) factories inland, but even then they are still struggling to find enough workers for their export production activities. Many owners have relocated their shops to Vietnam in order to lessen their labor supply problems in China.”
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