NRF: 2017 Imports Show Solid Growth

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports grew 7% during 2017 over 2016 as retail sales continued to increase and the industry wrapped up the year with a strong holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Retail had a strong year fueled by growing wages, higher employment and a boost in consumer confidence,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers imported more merchandise than ever to meet demand for quality products at affordable prices, and growth is expected to continue in the year ahead.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.74 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, up 5.8% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

December was estimated at 1.6 million TEU, up 2.6% year-over-year. The total for 2017 is expected to come to 20.1 million TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 7%.

January is forecast at 1.68 million TEU, up 0.2% from January 2017; February at 1.62 million TEU, up 12.6% from last year; March at 1.5 million TEU, down 2.3%; April at 1.66 million TEU, up 3.3%, and May at 1.73 million TEU, up 0.4%. The February and March percentages are skewed because of changes in when Asian factories close for Lunar New Year each year.

“On a percentage basis, 2017 was one of the strongest increases we’ve seen since the end of the Great Recession,” said Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates founder. “That’s no minor achievement at a time when many are trying to talk down the economy. The rate is expected to slow down some, but with 2017’s performance and continuing high consumer confidence, our models show continued growth in the coming year.”