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NRF: Imports Stay Strong As Retailers Look To Offset Tariffs

Import levels at the nation’s ports have slowed ahead of the holidays but remain higher than normal, according to the Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Imports have usually dropped off significantly by this time of year but we’re still seeing numbers that could have set records in the past. Part of this is driven by consumer demand in the strong economy but retailers also know that tariffs on the latest round of goods are set to more than double in just a few weeks,” said Jonathan Gold, VP/Supply Chain and Customs Policy at the NRF. 

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.87 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1.3% from August but up 4.6% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

October was estimated at 1.89 million TEU, up 5.5% year-over-year. November is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.8%, and December at 1.79 million TEU, up 3.8%. January 2019 is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.8% over January 2018; February at 1.7 million TEU, up 0.4% year-over-year, and March at 1.59 million TEU, up 3.3%.

Imports set a monthly record of 1.9 million TEU in July ahead of 10% tariffs on $200 billion in goods from China that took effect in September and are scheduled to rise to 25% in January.

The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4% over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.