The monthly Global Port Tracker report released recently by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates found that import volume at major retail container ports is expected to grow 5.1 percent year-over-year this month ahead of the holiday season.
“Retailers are making up for the slow imports seen earlier in the year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “It’s too early to predict holiday sales, but merchants are clearly stocking up.”
While cargo import numbers do not directly correlate with sales or employment, the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough measure of retailers’ expectations.
In July, U.S. ports handled 1.43 million 20-foot cargo containers, a 5.4 percent increase from June and a 1.1 percent year-over-year increase. The July increase follows year-over-year declines in three of the four previous months.
In August, U.S. ports handled approximately 1.48 million cargo containers—a 4.1 percent increase from last year. American ports are expected to handle 1.48 million in September, 1.46 million in October, 1.31 million in November and 1.3 million in December.
The total annual forecast for 2013 is 16.2 million cargo containers, up 2.5 percent from 15.8 million last year. The first six months of the year totaled 7.8 million containers, up 1.2 percent from the first half of last year.
“The U.S. economy is on the road to sustained growth,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Second-quarter GDP was well above expectations and surprised most forecasters, the unemployment picture is improving, and we believe consumer confidence will translate into increased sales during the fourth quarter.”