Retail Imports to Rise in December and for the Year

Container PortWASHINGTON-Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports should rise by 1.8 percent in December, meaning that the total volume for the year should be up 2.3 percent, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, characterized 2013 as a good year of import growth for retail merchandise, and said retailers are “well stocked” for the holiday season. “Holiday merchandise has made it from the ships to the shelves, and the rest is up to the shoppers,” Gold said. NRF has predicted that holiday retail sales will grow 3.9 percent over last year, to $602.1 billion.

In October, the most recent month with available figures, import cargo volume declined 0.4 percent from September but rose 6.4 percent from October 2012. The Global Port Tracker report predicted that November’s volume would finish up 3.6 percent from last year, followed by December’s forecasted 1.8 percent pickup.

In to the New Year, the report said January’s volume is expected to gain 3.3 percent from January 2013, followed by a February dropoff of 7.8 percent. March is projected for a 15.9 percent increased, followed by a 6.6 percent growth in April.

Noting that the U.S. economy appears to have entered a “growth spurt,” Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, added, “The paradox is that consumer spending remains very cautious and does not come anywhere near the expansion of GDP. Despite back-to-school sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and regular sales, the inventory-to-sales ration remains stubbornly high. Hopefully, November and December numbers will show a catch-up that will help reduce the inventories.”