Retail Imports Set for 6.1 Percent April Gain

Retail Container ImportsWASHINGTON-Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports will rise 6.1 percent this month, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

According to NRF’s vice president of supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold, U.S. retailers are readying themselves for what they anticipate to be a busy spring and summer. “Consumers can expect plentiful supplies of merchandise” now that a particularly rough winter for most of the nation is over, Gold said.

In February, the most recent month with hard data, import volume at the container ports fell 8.4 percent from January and 1.4 percent from February 2013. The report estimated that March’s volume would rise 15 percent above March of last year. Following the April pickup, the report projected that May would bring a 3.8 percent year-over-year volume increase.

June’s volume is expected to rise 5.5 percent over June of last year, followed by a 3.1 percent gain in July and a 1.2 percent increase in August.

Gold also noted that, given the busy time ahead for the nation’s ports, retailers are watching the labor situation at West Coast ports, where the current contract for dockworkers expires on June 30 but negotiations are not expected to begin until mid-May. “Companies are already exploring contingency plans in case of a disruption,” he said.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the report’s forecasts continues to reflect the rebound in the U.S. economy. Observing that U.S. retail sales were strong in February and that new filings posted a three-month low last week, Hackett added that “we remain convinced that 2014 will have sustainable growth.”