Retail goods’ cargo shipments expected to rise 15%

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1 views 

The first half of 2024 cargo shipments for retail are expected to total 12.1 million containers, up 15% and reversing the 12.8% decline reported a year ago, according to the Global Port Tracker compiled by Hackett Associates for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Hackett reports monthly inbound cargo volume at the nation’s major ports will reach its highest level in nearly two years this summer. NRF has forecast core retail sales to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% this year over 2023. Through the first five months of this year NRF reports total sales rose 2.13% year over year and core sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants increased 2.48%.

“Consumers are continuing to spend more than last year, and retailers are stocking up to meet demand, especially as we head into peak shipping season,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. “The high level of imports expected over the next several months is an encouraging sign that retailers are confident in strong sales throughout the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, retailers are also facing supply chain challenges again, this time with congestion at overseas ports that are affecting operations and shipping rates.”

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said an expected seven-month string of import levels above 2 million containers – a level reached only twice since October 2022 – is partly due to changes in the annual “peak season” for shipping.

“Imports of containerized goods at U.S. ports are booming, with particularly strong growth on the West Coast,” Hackett said. “In the last couple of years, we have witnessed a flattened peak season that has stretched out the volume of imports over extra months versus the strong, consolidated surge seen in the past. Reasons range from retailers restocking following strong sales after the pandemic to trying to get ahead of increased tariffs on goods from China set to take effect in August and ensuring sufficient inventories for the holiday season amid strong consumer demand.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.02 million containers in April, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was up 4.6% from March and up 13.2% year over year and was the highest number since October.

Ports have not yet reported May’s numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected that volume rose 8.3% year over year for the highest level since August 2022. June is forecast to go even higher, up 15.2% year over year. July cargo volume is expected to be up 9.5% and August up 10.6%.