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Santa’s Supply Chain Sleigh Should Be Full This Year

Sept. 9, 2015
Inventories are expected to be plentiful this fall, with no disruptions expected during holiday peak season at the major retail seaports.

If you can’t find exactly the right item for family and friends on your Christmas gift list, don’t blame it on the ports. “After supply chain worries earlier this year, inventories are plentiful this fall,” says Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy with the National Retail Federation. “Shoppers should have no worries about finding what they’re looking for as they begin their holiday shopping.”

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report, import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.2% this month over the same time last year as retailers head toward the holiday season.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.9% from June and 8.1% from July 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

August was estimated at 1.6 million TEUs, up 5.5% from 2014. September is forecast at 1.61 million TEUs, up 1.2% from last year; October at 1.62 million TEUs, up 3.8%; November at 1.5 million TEUs, up 7.9%, and December at 1.44 million TEUs, down 0.2%.

Those numbers, if projections play out according to form, would bring 2015 to a total of 18.2 million TEUs, up 5.4% from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEUs, up 6.5% over the same period last year.

January 2016 is forecast at 1.44 million TEUs, up 16.9% from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute.

Ben Hackett, founder of consulting firm Hackett Associates, says economists have been watching a “stubbornly high” inventory-to-sales ratio this summer. But he says the cause appears to be the flood of cargo that came after the new West Coast dockworkers’ contract was signed rather than weakness in demand.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.