Peak Retail Volumes Expected to Drop

As figures for the summer months are firming, indications are that fewer containers are being handled at major US ports and that trend will continue into October, the traditional peak month of the year. For the ports surveyed, August volume was 1.46 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) handled. Projections had been for 1.52 million TEU. The 2007 figure was down 1.4% from August 2006.

The revised projection now for September volume is 1.46 million, a decline of 1.6% year over year. As for October, it had been forecast at 1.54 million TEU, but is now expected to be short of last year’s 1.51 million TEU.

All of these figures are contained in Port Tracker, a report produced by Global Insight for the National Retail Federation (NRF). Congestion at the ports surveyed is rated low. They are Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Houston.

“These figures reflect the weakened US economy and retailers’ cautious outlook for this year’s holiday season compared with last year,” says Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham. “A slower economy means fewer imports, and that means fewer containers coming through the ports. The good news is that lower volume means the ports are free of congestion and that the goods coming in should move smoothly all the way from ship to shore to store.”

In the view of NRF’s vice president and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor, “Retailers have a good sense of the economy and are planning their inventories carefully. The lower volume of containers means merchants shouldn’t be left with unsold goods or forced into unplanned markdowns.”

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