NRF: With Higher Tariffs Looming, Import Levels Stay Strong

In spite of higher tariffs on Chinese-made products coming in mid-June, traffic at the nation’s major retail ports is expected to stay strong as retailers look to stock up for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.75 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 8.4% from March and up 6.9% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 3% year-over-year. June is forecast at 1.86 million TEU, up 0.3%; July at 1.93 million TEU, up 1.1%; August at 1.95 million TEU, up 3.3%; September at 1.89 million TEU, up 0.9%; and October at 1.95 million TEU, down 4.4%.

The August and October numbers would be the highest monthly totals since the 2 million TEU record set last October as retailers rushed to bring merchandise into the country ahead of expected tariff increases, NRF officials said.

“With a major tariff increase already announced and the possibility that tariffs could be imposed on nearly all goods from China, retailers are continuing to stock up,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy with the National Retail Federation. 

In May, the Trump Administration announced it would increase tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of goods manufactured in China. The increase applies to imports that arrive in the U.S. after June 15.