NRF: Back-To-School Expected To Lift Cargo Traffic

With retailers gearing up for the back-to-school shopping season, the National Retail Federation expects to see a solid pickup in traffic at the nation’s ports.

According to a report issued Wednesday, the NRF said cargo volume is expected to increase 7.3% in July when compared to the same month a year ago.

“Now that West Coast ports have recovered from the congestion caused by the recently settled contract dispute, retailers are focused on the back-to-school season to ensure that parents can find the supplies and clothing their children need for the fall,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers are continuing to work with their business partners to address ongoing congestion issues impacting their supply chains. Part of the solution will be Congress passing a long-term highway bill that addresses freight movement.”

A new five-year contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was ratified in May. The previous contract expired in July 2014.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which figures are available. That was up 6.2% from April and 8.2% from May 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

June was estimated at 1.56 million TEU, up 5.5% from 2014. July is forecast at 1.6 million TEU, up 7.3%; August also at 1.6 million TEU, up 5.5%; September at 1.63 million TEU, up 2.4%; October at 1.61 million TEU, up 3.5%, and November at 1.5 million TEU, up 7.5%.

The first half of 2015 was estimated at 8.8 million TEU, up 6.4% over the same period last year. Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which works with the NRF to report on cargo traffic at the nation’s ports, said the increases in imports are in line with other improving economic indicators.

“U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May, suggesting that the level of confidence about the future has improved,” Hackett said. “This is very positive news.”