NRF: Import Levels Slow After Several Strong Months Of Growth

Following months of record growth, the level of imports at the nation’s ports have slowed, according to a report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.81 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.5% year-over-year but down 11.4% from the record of 2.04 million TEU set in October. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

“With the holiday season behind us, the immediate pressure to stock up on merchandise has passed but retailers remain concerned about tariffs and their impact on the nation’s economy,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers have also brought in much of their spring merchandise early to protect consumers against higher prices that will eventually come with tariffs.”

December was estimated at 1.79 million TEU, a 3.7% year-over-year increase. That would bring 2018 to a total of 21.6 million TEU, an increase of 5.3% over 2017’s record 20.5 million TEU.

January is forecast at 1.75 million TEU, down 0.9% from January 2018; February at 1.67 million TEU, also down 0.9% year-over-year; March at 1.55 million TEU, up 0.6%; April at 1.69 million TEU, up 3.7%; and May at 1.8 million TEU, down 1.3%.

February and March are typically two of the slowest months of the year for imports, both because of the post-holiday drop in demand and because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.