Sandy’s Impact on Santa to be Mild

Nov. 13, 2012
Sandy caused major port problems, but retailers managed to get their cargo into the country in time for the holidays.

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 5.9 percent in November despite the temporary closure of some ports by super-storm Sandy, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Sandy certainly caused major problems that are still being cleaned up, but retailers managed to get their cargo into the country and will have plenty of merchandise on store shelves for the holidays,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “While there was clearly a regional impact, at this point the storm is not expected to have a major effect on holiday sales numbers.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.42 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was the same as August but up 3.3 percent from September 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

October was estimated at 1.46 million TEU, up 10.7 percent from last year, with November forecast at 1.37 million TEU, up 5.9 percent, and December forecast at 1.34 million TEU, up 9.4 percent. January is forecast at 1.39 million TEU, up 8.2 percent from January 2012; February at 1.22 million TEU, up 12 percent; and March at 1.26 million TEU, up 1.6 percent.

August, September and October are the three busiest months of the year as retailers bring merchandise into the country for the holiday season, and volume for the three months combined was up 5.8 percent at 4.3 million TEU. While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year.

The first half of 2012 totaled 7.7 million TEU, up 2.9 percent from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 is expected to total 16.1 million TEU, up 4.5 percent from 2011.

“The full extent of the impact from the mayhem and destruction of Hurricane Sandy is still being assessed, but it should hopefully not have too much of a detrimental effect on trade,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “The New York/New Jersey terminals were impacted for a short period but cargo destined for there was handled elsewhere until service returned. Rebuilding of infrastructure and homes should cause an uptick for imports of construction materials.”