Surge in retail imports expected after summer lull

Shipping Container

Import volumes at major retail container ports in the US are expected to increase significantly this autumn after a summer lull.

The Global Port Tracker report, from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, said volumes were expected to rise by only 1.1% in July compared to last year.

“With the economy recovering slowly, retailers have been cautious with imports this summer, but it’s clear that they expect an upturn later in the year,” NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said.

“Import numbers have been close to flat since spring, but we expect to see stronger increases this fall.”

US ports followed by Global Port Tracker imported 1.38 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in May, up 0.6% on last year, the report said.

June’s estimated figure was 1.37 million TEU, down 0.7%, while July is forecast to reach 1.43 million TEU, up 1.1%. Further forecasts include: August — 1.45 million TEU, up 1.7%; September — 1.44 million TEU, up 2.4%; October — 1.46 million TEU, up 9.1%; and November — 1.38 million TEU, up 7.3%.

For the first six months of 2013, the report estimates imports at 7.8 million TEU, up 1.2% on last year.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said that, despite projected import increases, actual results in retail would hinge on consumer confidence.

“Consumer sales remain relatively weak compared with GDP,” he added. “If consumers do not turn their confidence into purchases, then import volumes will drop.”

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