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  September 14th, 2015 | Written by

Retail Imports Begin To Climb As Holidays Approach

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  • Ports handled 1.62 million TEU in July, up 2.9 percent from June and 8.1 percent from July 2014.
  • NRF VP: Shoppers should have no worries finding what they’re looking for.
  • January 2016 is forecast up 16.9 percent from 2014, just before dockworkers agreed on a new contract.

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.2 percent this month over the same time last year as retailers head toward the holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in July, the latest month for which numbers are available. That was up 2.9 percent from June and 8.1 percent from July 2014.

“After supply chain worries earlier this year, inventories are plentiful this fall,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “Shoppers should have no worries about finding what they’re looking for as they begin their holiday shopping.”

August was estimated at 1.6 million TEU, up 5.5 percent from 2014. September is forecast at 1.61 million TEU, up 1.2 percent from last year; October at 1.62 million TEU, up 3.8 percent; November at 1.5 million TEU, up 7.9 percent, and December at 1.44 million TEU, down 0.2 percent.

Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5 percent over the same period last year.

January 2016 is forecast at 1.44 million TEU, up 16.9 percent from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before west coast dockworkers agreed on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said economists have been watching a “stubbornly high” inventory-to-sales ratio this summer. But he said the cause appears to be the flood of cargo that came after the new west coast dockworkers’ contract was signed rather than weakness in demand.

Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. 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.