Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to drop 8.4% in February from the same time last year, according to the monthly report released Tuesday (Feb. 11) by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Ports and distribution centers are getting the break they deserve after the busy holiday season, but it won’t last long,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers will be moving spring merchandise toward their shelves in just a few weeks, and early numbers point to a busy season ahead.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.3 million container units in December, the latest month for which actual results are available. That was down 3.3% from November as the holiday season came to an end but up 0.6% from December 2012. The December numbers brought 2013 to a total of 16.2 million containers up 2.3% from the 15.8 million containers in 2012.
In January, imports were an estimated 1.37 million containers, up 4.5 % from a year ago. February, historically the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.17 million units, down 8.4% from the same month last year.
The spring forecast is rosy as imports are expected to rise 13.7% in March at 1.29 million containers. In April, imports are forecast at 1.39 million containers, up 6.9% from a year ago.
The NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence.
“On the consumer side, there is continued hesitancy in spending as net disposable income remains virtually flat,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “As a result, the inventory-to-sales ratio remains stubbornly high.”