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Retail Volumes Still High Despite Growth Moderating

Retail Volumes Still High Despite Growth Moderating

Jan. 10, 2022
"There is much that remains to be done to clear out port backlogs and increase capacity throughout the supply chain," says National Retail Federation.

The rate of import growth will become normalized in 2020,  according to the monthly Global Track report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. 

“Even with the holiday season behind us, supply chain challenges continue,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “The huge increases in imports we’ve seen have leveled out, but volume is still at high levels. We hope the system will find a way to catch up, but there is much that remains to be done to clear out port backlogs and increase capacity throughout the supply chain. Amid all of this, the omicron variant is a wild card that could not only impact the supply chain workforce but once again drive more imports if consumers stay home and spend their money on retail goods rather than going out.”

Growth in 2021 saw year-over-year growth as high as 65% in some months, as the result of both high consumer demand and retailers stocking up to address supply chain challenges. However,  increases returned to single digits by last fall and should remain there this year, the report notes.

Looking at the first half of 2022, there will be near-records, with volumes of about 2.2 million TEUs. 

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.11 million TEU in November, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 4.5% from October but up 0.5% year-over-year.

Projects for December, as the numbers have not been released, are 2.18 million TEU, up 3.7% year-over-year. Those numbers would bring 2021 to a total of 25.9 million TEU, a 17.9% increase over 2020’s record high of 22 million TEU that was set despite the pandemic.  

Looking ahead predictions, year-over-year, are as follows:

  • January is forecast at 2.23 million TEU, up 8.6% 
  • February at 1.95 million TEU, up 4.2%
  • March at 2.19 million, down 3.3%
  • April at 2.2 million TEU, up 2.5%
  • May at 2.32 million TEU, down 0.5%. 

“Economic indicators are giving us a paradoxical view of the direction of the U.S. and global economies,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “The atmosphere of uncertainty is likely to have an impact on demand going forward. We are already seeing short-term growth rates declining, and we believe trade growth is returning to normal levels reflective of economic factors. We do not expect that double-digit expansion of import volumes will continue in 2022.”

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