Imports at major retail container ports in the US have set two new records this summer and are expected to set another one this month on the back of a rise in retail sales as retailers rush to bring merchandise into the country ahead of the new tariffs on products from China.
According to a report by National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million TEUs in June. That was up 1.6 percent from May and up 7.8 percent year-over-year.
July was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.4 percent year-over-year, while August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 4.4 percent.
The June number set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, beating the previous record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017. The July estimate, which is subject to revision when the numbers become final, appeared to take the record higher and August should set yet another record, NRF informed.
While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the record imports mirror strong results seen by retailers this spring and summer that are expected to continue through the remainder of the year.
The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.
“Tariffs on most consumer products have yet to take effect but retailers appear to be getting prepared before that can happen,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.
“We’re seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come. The good news for consumers is that avoiding tariffs holds off price increases that will inevitably come if the reckless and misguided trade war is allowed to continue.”
Global Port Tracker has only marginally downgraded imports for 2018 but a larger downturn is expected going into 2019 resulting from the trade war as well as an anticipated slowing of the economy, Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, explained.