Holiday Shopping Raises Retail Imports at Top US Container Ports

Imports at major retail container ports in the US are expected to be up 3.2 percent this December over the same time last year as stores bring in the last of the merchandise for the holiday season, according to a report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.67 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.6 percent from September and up 7.4 percent from October 2015.

November was estimated at 1.53 million TEU, up 3.6 percent from last year, and December is forecast at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.2 percent.

The numbers come as NRF is forecasting USD 655.8 billion in holiday sales, a 3.6 percent increase over last year.

Cargo volume for 2016 is expected to total 18.6 million TEU, up 2 percent from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from 2014. The first half of 2016 totaled 9 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from the same period in 2015.

January 2017 is forecast at 1.54 million TEU, up 3.2 percent from January 2016; February at 1.49 million TEU, down 3.5 percent from last year; March at 1.38 million TEU, up 4.4 percent from last year, and April at 1.54 million TEU, up 6.4 percent.

With cargo growth at covered US ports for the year coming in at only 2 percent, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said a trend of imports exceeding growth of gross domestic product appears to have ended.

“This is a new phenomenon,” Hackett said. “It was not long ago when industry leaders were doing their forecasts based on trade growth outpacing GDP by a ratio of more than 2-to-1. Those days are gone.”

Global Port Tracker covers the US ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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