NRF: Import Cargo Rises In November

Does an increase in import cargo volume foreshadow a strong Christmas selling season for retailers?

That’s the belief of the National Retail Federation, which reported that imports at the nation’s major ports are up 4.4% over the same period from 2015. The monthly Global Port Tracker from the NRF and Hackett Associates also expects an increase in December.

“Retailers are importing more during the holidays this year than last year and that can only mean one thing— they expect to sell more,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy with the NRF. “Most of the holiday merchandise is already here, but retailers are still restocking to be sure shoppers will have a broad and deep selection as they hit the stores over the next several weeks.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 6.6% from August, the busiest month of the year, and down 1.6% from September 2015. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

Volume rebounded in October to an estimated 1.67 million TEU, up 7.5% from last year. November is forecast at 1.54 million TEU, up 4.4% from last year, and December at 1.5 million TEU, up 4.5%.

Cargo volume for 2016 is expected to total 18.6 million TEU, up 2.2% from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4% from 2014. The first half of 2016 totaled 9 million TEU, up 1.6% from the same period in 2015. January 2017 is forecast at 1.54 million TEU, up 3.6% from January 2016; February at 1.49 million TEU, down 3.2% from last year, and March at 1.38 million TEU, up 4.6% from last year.