WASHINGTON, December 13, 2011 -- Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports should be up 0.3 percent in December compared with the same month last year as retailers head to the finish line of the holiday shopping season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“The uptick we’re expecting for December isn’t large at all but it comes after several months where retailers had reduced their imports from last year, so it’s a positive sign by comparison,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers are placing a cautious bet that consumer demand is increasing.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.28 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.5 percent from the peak for the year hit in September, and down 5 percent from October 2010. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
November was estimated at 1.18 million TEU, down 4.4 percent from a year ago, while December is forecast at 1.15 million TEU, up 0.3 percent from last year. After the holidays, January 2012 is forecast at 1.15 million TEU, down 4.8 percent from January 2011. February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.04 million TEU, down 5.7 percent; March is expected to see 1.17 million TEU, an increase of 7 percent; and April is forecast at 1.22 million TEU, the same as last year.
The total for 2011 is forecast at 14.73 million TEU, down one-tenth of 1 percent from last year’s 14.75 million TEU.
Global Port Tracker counts only the number of cargo containers imported, not the value of their contents, so cargo volume does not directly correlate with retail sales. NRF is forecasting 2.8 percent growth in holiday sales during November and December over last year, for a total of $465.6 billion.
“We expect to see a mini-resurgence in December,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “With consumer spending on the rise, it would seem that the pace of retail sales will continue through to the New Year’s sales at least.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalportracker.com.
As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation. www.nrf.com
Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.