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Import Volume to Edge Up in October

Set for 3.3 percent gain, according to the Global Port Tracker report
Posted on October 13, 2015 by David Gill

container shipWASHINGTON-As U.S. retailers continue to prepare for the holiday shopping season, cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is projected to rise by 3.3 percent this month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The holidays are almost here, and retailers are ready,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Merchants have been stocking up since summer, and there should be plenty on the shelves as consumers begin their holiday shopping.” NRF has forecast a 3.7 percent increase in holiday sales for this year.

In August, the most recent month with available hard data, import cargo volume rose a hefty 10.4 percent over August of last year. The Global Port Tracker report predicted that September’s import volume would finish up 2.1 percent year over year.

For November, import volume is set for a 7.2 percent gain, to be followed by a 0.9 percent decrease in December. This would raise import cargo volume for the year as a whole by 5.7 percent.

The report also predicted a 16.5 percent gain in January import volume, to be followed by a 12.9 percent increase in February. NRF noted that these two projections are up against weak numbers from January and February of this year, skewed by the labor dispute between dockworkers and the West Coast ports, which was settled by a new contract agreement ratified in May.

While the West Coast ports have largely recovered their share of cargo volume after the labor dispute, the inventory-to-sales ration remains “stubbornly high” because of the flood of cargo that came in after the dispute ended, said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “We would have thought that by now the aftermath of the disruption at the West Coast Ports had worked its way through, which would help to reduce inventory. This is not the case,” Hackett said.