After a slow February, the National Retail Federation reported today that it expects import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports to increase 12.4% in March. The organization’s Global Port Tracker study, released by the NRF and market research firm Hackett Associates, indicated that the ports handled 1.36 million twenty-foot equivalent units in January, the latest month from which after-the-fact numbers have emerged.
The January volume figure was 5.3% ahead of December and up 4.1% from January 2013.
“Retailers are bouncing back from the annual post-holiday slowdown and getting ready for the surge in activity that comes each year as the weather warms up,” Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, said in discussing the import figures. “Shelves are going to be well-stocked with everything from bathing suits to barbecues.”
However, NRF cautioned, cargo movement at some ports has been slowed by issue such as severe winter weather and shortages of labor and equipment recently.
“Congestion has been a problem for many ports during this slowdown, so operations will need to improve to handle the expected surge in the coming months,” Gold said.
NRF estimated that import volume in February, historically the year’s slowest cargo movement month, was 1.17 million TEU, down 8.8% from the same month last year. March is forecast at 1.28 million TEU, up , as noted, 12.4% from last year’s month.
For April, NRF forecasts volume at t 1.36 million TEU, up 5.1% from the 2013 month.
The import numbers come just after NRF announced that it expects 4.1% retail sales sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence, the organization maintained.