Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.6 percent in July compared with the same month last year, and modest year-over-year increases are expected through the holiday season shipping cycle, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released this week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Whether consumers are going to have the confidence to spend during the next few months depends on what happens with employment, but retailers are being cautiously optimistic,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Sales can fluctuate from month to month, but these import numbers show that retailers are still expecting this year to be better than last year.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.34 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.1 percent from April and 2.3 percent from May 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
June remained at an estimated 1.34 million TEU, the same as May but up 4.7 percent from June 2011. July is forecast at 1.38 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from last year; August at 1.44 million TEU, up 6.2 percent; September at 1.45 million TEU, up 6.8 percent; October at 1.47 million TEU, up 12.6 percent over lower-than-usual numbers last year; and November at 1.3 million TEU, up 2 percent.
The first half of 2012 totaled an estimated 7.5 million TEU, up 2.6 percent from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 15.1 million TEU, up 0.6 percent from 2010. NRF projects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion.
“Economists and commentators are talking the economy down,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Despite the mixed signals, we remain optimistic that consumers will remain in the market.”