Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 12.4% in March 2014 as retailers begin to stock up for the spring and the summer season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.36 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 5.3% from December and 4.1% from January 2013. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.
February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.17 million TEU, down 8.8% from the same month the previous year. March is forecast at 1.28 million TEU, up 12.4% from the prior year; April at 1.36 million TEU, up 5.1%; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.7%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.3%, and July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.4%. The first half of the year is expected to total 8 million TEU, up 3.5% from the same period in 2013.
The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence.
“Retailers are bouncing back from the annual post-holiday slowdown and getting ready for the surge in activity that comes each year as the weather warms up,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy. “Shelves are going to be well-stocked with everything from bathing suits to barbecues.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm 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.