In its monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, import volume is expected to rise 6.1% this month compared to a year ago.
“With winter over, retailers are stocking up in anticipation of a busy spring and summer,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Consumers can expect plentiful supplies of merchandise.”
“A busy time is expected over the next few months, so retailers are keeping a close eye on the labor situation at West Coast ports to ensure that cargo continues to move smoothly,” Gold said, who notes that West Coast dockworkers’ contract expires June 30. While negotiations may not actually begin until mid-May, Gold said, “companies are already exploring contingency plans in case of a disruption.”
Positive News for Retail Sales, Too?
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.26 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. February is historically the slowest month of the year, and the number was down 8.4% from January and 1.4% from February 2013. (One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent).
March was estimated at 1.31 million TEU, up 15% from the same month last year. April is forecast at 1.38 million TEU, up 6.1% from last year; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.8%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.5%; July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.1%, and August at 1.51 million TEU, up 1.2%. The first half of the year is expected to total 8.2 million TEU, up 5.5% over last year.
Although cargo volumes don’t correlate directly with sales, it does provide a barometer of retailers’ expectations.
“There is positive news with both the rebound in U.S. retail sales in February and the new filings for jobless benefits hitting a fresh three-month low last week, suggesting that the economy is gaining momentum,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Our forecast continues to reflect the economic rebound and we remain convinced that 2014 will have sustainable growth.”
Global Port Tracker 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. www.globalporttracker.com