NRF: Concerns Over Tariffs Boost August Import Levels

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports remained strong in August as retailers and product suppliers looked to beat a new wave of tariffs that took effect September 1.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, August imports were estimated at 1.93 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, up 1.8% year-over-year. This follows a busy July when ports handled 1.96 million TEUs, up 2.9% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

New 15% tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect at the beginning of September and are scheduled to be expanded to additional goods on December 15— covering a total of about $300 billion in imports. In addition, 25% tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports already imposed over the past year will increase to 30% on October 1.

“Retailers are still trying to minimize the impact of the trade war on consumers by bringing in as much merchandise as they can before each new round of tariffs takes effect and drives up prices,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy with the NRF. “That’s the same pattern we’ve seen over the past year, but we’re very quickly going to be at the point where virtually all consumer goods will be subject to these taxes on American families.”

Looking ahead, September is forecast at 1.85 million, down 0.7% from last year; October at 1.92 million TEU, down 5.5%; November at 1.97 million TEU, up 8.8%, and December at 1.77 million TEU, down 9.8%.