NRF: Busy Summer Expected At U.S. Ports

As retailers work to stock up for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons, July and August could be record-setting months for imports, according to a report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“We’re expecting retailers to import some of the largest volumes of merchandise ever,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vp/supply chain and customs policy. “That’s a good indicator of what could be ahead for consumer demand and retail sales, and it’s a sign that retail is going strong despite what you might read in the headlines.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.72 million twenty-foot equivalent units in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 7.3% from April and up 6.2% from May 2016. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

June was estimated at 1.66 million TEU, up 5.3% from the same time last year. July is forecast at 1.71 million TEU, up 5.1% from last year; August at 1.75 million TEU, up 2.2%; September at 1.66 million TEU, up 4.3%; October at 1.71 million TEU, up 2.2%, and November at 1.6 million TEU, down 2.7% from last year.

The August figure, if achieved, would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the 1.73 million TEU seen in March 2015. The 1.7 million-plus numbers seen in May, July, August and October represent four of the six busiest months in the report’s history, noted NRF.

The first half of 2017 is expected to total 9.63 million TEU, up 7.1% from the first half of 2016. Cargo volume for 2016 totaled 18.8 million TEU, up 3.1% from 2015, which had grown 5.4% from 2014.