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Strong Growth in Merchandise Imports to Resume in Fall

For Immediate Release
Contact: J. Craig Shearman (202) 626-8134
shearmanc@nrf.com 

Strong Growth in Merchandise Imports to Resume in Fall

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 – Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase a modest 1.1 percent in July over the same month last year but a slow summer should be followed by significant increases as retailers head into the holiday season this fall, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“With the economy recovering slowly, retailers have been cautious with imports this summer but it’s clear that they expect an upturn later in the year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Import numbers have been close to flat since spring, but we expect to see stronger increases this fall.”

Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them. But the amount of merchandise imported nonetheless provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.38 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 1.2 percent from April but only 0.6 percent from May 2012. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

June was estimated at 1.37 million TEU, down 0.7 percent from a year ago. July is forecast at 1.43 million TEU, up 1.1 percent from last year; August at 1.45 million TEU, up 1.7 percent; September at 1.44 million TEU, up 2.4 percent; October at 1.46 million TEU, up 9.1 percent; and November at 1.38 million TEU, up 7.3 percent.

The first six months of 2013 totaled an estimated 7.8 million TEU, up 1.2 percent from the first half of 2012. The total for 2012 was 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9 percent from 2011.

Despite the projected increase in imports, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said actual results will hinge on consumer confidence.

“Consumer sales remain relatively weak compared with GDP,” Hackett said. “If consumers do not turn their confidence into purchases then import volumes will drop.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, 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. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalporttracker.com.  

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. www.nrf.com

Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.

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