Retail imports projected to grow
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow by 1.8 percent in December over the same month last year, and the year should end with an increase of 2.3 percent over 2012, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Monday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Imports have seen good growth over the last year, and retailers are well-stocked as the holiday season continues,” stated Jonathan Gold, the NRF's vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Holiday merchandise has made it from the ships to the shelves, and the rest is up to the shoppers.”
The cargo numbers come as the NRF predicts that this year's holiday sales will grow 3.9 percent over last year to a total of $602.1 billion. Cargo import figures do not correlate directly with sales because they count only the number of cargo containers, not the value of the merchandise inside them, but they are still an indicator of retailers’ sales expectations.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million TEU in October, the latest month for which numbers are available. That was down 0.4 percent from September, as the peak shipping cycle wound down, but up 6.4 percent from October 2012.
November's activity was estimated at 1.33 million TEU, up 3.6 percent from last year. December's activity is forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 1.8 percent from last year, and January import volume is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, up 3.3 percent from January.
The total import volume for 2013 is forecast at 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3 percent from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The first six months of 2013 totaled 7.8 million TEU, up 1.2 percent from the first half of 2012.
“The U.S. economy appears to have found a growth spurt,” Hackett Associates' founder Ben Hackett said in a statement, citing estimated third-quarter gross domestic product growth of 3.6 percent. “The paradox is that consumer spending remains very cautious and does not come anywhere near the expansion of GDP. The reason is the increasing levels of inventory. Despite back-to-school sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and regular sales, the inventory-to-sales ratio remains stubbornly high. Hopefully, November and December numbers will show a catch-up that will help reduce the inventories.”