July and August should be two of the busiest months ever seen for imports at US major retail container ports, possibly setting a new record, the latest Global Port Tracker report released by the US National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates says.
The forecast is made as merchants enter the back-to-school season and begin to stock up for the holiday season.
“We’re expecting retailers to import some of the largest volumes of merchandise ever,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“That’s a good indicator of what could be ahead for consumer demand and retail sales, and it’s a sign that retail is going strong despite what you might read in the headlines.”
Ports covered by the report handled 1.72 million TEUs in May, up 7.3 percent from April and up 6.2 percent from May 2016.
June was estimated at 1.66 million TEU, up 5.3 percent from the same time last year. July is forecast at 1.71 million TEU, up 5.1 percent from last year; August at 1.75 million TEU, up 2.2 percent; September at 1.66 million TEU, up 4.3 percent; October at 1.71 million TEU, up 2.2 percent, and November at 1.6 million TEU, down 2.7 percent from last year, NRF figures show.
“The August figure would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the 1.73 million TEU seen in March 2015. The 1.7 million-plus numbers seen in May, July, August and October represent four of the six busiest months in the report’s history,” the retail trade association noted.
The first half of 2017 is expected to total 9.63 million TEU, up 7.1 percent from the first half of 2016. Cargo volume for 2016 totaled 18.8 million TEU, up 3.1 percent from 2015, which had grown 5.4 percent from 2014.
NRF has forecast that 2017 retail sales – excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – will increase between 3.7 and 4.2 percent over 2016, driven by job and income growth coupled with low debt.
Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, said the increases in imports have come despite threats by the Trump administration to impose new limits on international trade.
“Some actions to date appear to have alienated traditional allies and are causing them to work more closely together, leaving the United States on the sidelines,” Hackett wrote in his monthly editorial comment in the report.
“‘America First’ may well result in protectionist actions that will cut the United States off from the benefits of the global value chain and economic growth for U.S. importers and exporters.”