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NRF: Imports Level Off Heading Into Holidays

After months of record-setting volume as retailers stocked up for the holiday season, imports at the nation’s major container ports should be essentially flat this month compared with the same time last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The stores and warehouses are full, and it’s time for the shopping to begin,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “Retailers have been bringing in merchandise since late summer, and supply is ready to meet the increased demand that has been building throughout the year.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.76 million twenty-foot equivalent units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was a 2.3% decrease from the record-setting 1.8 million TEU recorded in August, but still a 10.5% increase year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

October was estimated at 1.75 million TEU, up 4.9% from last year. While not records, the September and October numbers were among only six times that monthly volume has hit 1.7 million TEU or higher since NRF began tracking imports in 2000. November is forecast at 1.63 million TEU, down 0.5% from last year, and December is forecast at 1.6 million TEU, up 2%.

The total for 2017 is expected to come to 20 million TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 6.3%. The first half of 2017 totaled 9.7 million TEU, up 7.5% from the same period in 2016.

January 2018 is forecast at 1.66 million TEU, down 1% from January 2017; February at 1.59 million TEU, up 10.9% from last year, and March at 1.5 million TEU, down 2.1%. The February and March percentages are skewed because of changes in when Asian factories close for Lunar New Year each year.