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Report: Retailers stocking up ahead of holiday season

By Nick Bullock
Published: September 17, 2013
As retailers head into the holiday season, import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 5.1 percent in September over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Sept. 9 by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers are making up for the slow imports seen earlier in the year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “It’s too early to predict holiday sales, but merchants are clearly stocking up.”

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, according to an NRF press release.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was a 5.4 percent increase over June and up 1.1 percent from July 2012. This follows year-over-year declines in three of the four previous months. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

August was estimated at 1.48 million TEU, up 4.1 percent from last year. September is forecast at 1.48 million TEU, up 5.1 percent; October at 1.46 million TEU, up 9 percent; November at 1.31 million TEU, up 2.2 percent; and December at 1.3 million TEU, up 0.7 percent. January 2014 is forecast at 1.33 million TEU, up 1.9 percent from January 2013.

The total for 2013 is forecast at 16.2 million TEU, up 2.5 percent from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The first six months of 2013 totaled 7.8 million TEU, up 1.2 percent from the first half of 2012.

“The U.S. economy is on the road to sustained growth,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Second-quarter GDP was well above expectations and surprised most forecasters, the unemployment picture is improving, and we believe consumer confidence will translate into increased sales during the fourth quarter.”
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