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With back-to-school merchandise on the shelves, retail imports turn toward holiday season

"A lot of the merchandise consumers will be buying this fall is already showing up at the docks."

NRF VP Jonathan Gold

WASHINGTON – August should be the busiest month of the year for import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports now that retailers have stocked up for back-to-school and are getting a head start on holiday season merchandise. That’s according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, which said cargo volume for 2016 should end the year with a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

“Shoppers are right in the middle of buying back-to-school products but the retail supply chain is already preparing for the holiday season,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “August is the peak month of the annual shipping season that builds up to the winter holidays, and a lot of the merchandise consumers will be buying this fall is already showing up at the docks.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.58 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2.8 percent from May and 0.5 percent from June 2015. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.64 million TEU, up 1.5 percent from the same month last year. August is forecast at 1.68 million TEU, down 0.3 percent from last year; September at 1.61 million TEU, down 0.6 percent; October at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.9 percent; November at 1.52 million TEU, up 2.9 percent, and December at 1.47 million TEU, up 2.5 percent.

Those numbers should bring 2016 to a total of 18.5 million TEU, up 1.7 percent from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from 2014. The first half of 2016 totaled 8.98 million TEU, up 1.4 percent from the same period in 2015.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said much of the recent upturn in the U.S. economy is attributable to consumers, noting that the 5.1 percent increase in year-over-year retail sales in June as calculated by NRF was nearly twice the 2.6 percent increase in average hourly wages seen the same month.

“In these stressed times with uncertainty abounding amid an unusual presidential election and other issues, consumers have decided it is time to hit the stores and stock up on goods,” Hackett said.

Source: National Retail Federation/Hackett Associates Global Port Tracker Report

Source: National Retail Federation/Hackett Associates Global Port Tracker Report

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.

About NRF
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 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 retail plays in driving innovation. NRF.com

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