Retailer imports expected to rise

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 168 views 

Following negative numbers in four of the last five months, import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 1.7% in August, over last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s monthly global port tracker data compiled by Hackett Associates.

The report also expects to see modest gains continue through the holiday season to the of 2013. The year is expected to end with a 2.4% increase over 2012.

“As the economy continues to slowly improve, retailers are stocking up for their most important sales season of the year,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain policy at NRF.

He said merchants have been very cautious so far this year, but their forecasts show that retailers plan to make up for it in the next few months.

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 have seen year-over-year declines in cargo every month since March with the exception of May, which saw a 1.6% increase. In June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, the cargo was down 2.7% from May and 1.8% lower than in June 2012.

July was estimated at 1.4 million cargo containers, down 0.6% from a year ago. 
But the trend is expected to change in August, which is forecast at 1.45 million containers, up 1.7% from last year.

Trade at the ports continues to remain positive, confirming our view that the economy remains on a slow but steady course of recovery,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. 

“The question is whether importers are building up stock ahead of expected sales demand or in response to recently announced freight rate increases,” he added.

Fall Forecast

September: 1.43 million containers, up 1.9%

October: 1.45 million containers, up 8.3%
November: 1.37 million containers, up 6.7%

December: 1.34 million containers, up 3.5%

Those numbers would bring 2013 to a total of 16.2 million containers, up 2.4% from 2012. During the first half of 2013 ports handled 7.8 million containers, up 1.2% from same period in 2012.