NRF: Retail Imports Growing As Holidays Approach

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.2% this month over the same time last year as retailers head toward the holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“After supply chain worries earlier this year, inventories are plentiful this fall,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “Shoppers should have no worries about finding what they’re looking for as they begin their holiday shopping.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.9% from June and 8.1% from July 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

August was estimated at 1.6 million TEU, up 5.5% from 2014. September is forecast at 1.61 million TEU, up 1.2% from last year; October at 1.62 million TEU, up 3.8%; November at 1.5 million TEU, up 7.9%, and December at 1.44 million TEU, down 0.2%.

Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4% from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5% over the same period last year.

Looking ahead, January 2016 is forecast at 1.44 million TEU, up 16.9% from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett noted that economists have been watching a “stubbornly high” inventory-to-sales ratio this summer. But he said the cause appears to be the flood of cargo that came after the new West Coast dockworkers’ contract was signed rather than weakness in demand.