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Retail imports at US container ports up by 7% in 2017: NRF
Jan '18
Retail imports at US container ports up by 7% in 2017: NRF
Imports at major US retail container ports increased by 7 per cent during 2017 over 2016 as retail sales continued to rise and the industry ended the year with a strong holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released recently by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. Growth is expected to continue in 2018 as well.

“Retail had a strong year fueled by growing wages, higher employment and a boost in consumer confidence,” an NRF press release quoted vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold as saying.

Ports surveyed handled 1.74 million TEUs (TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent) in November, the latest month for which numbers were available. With most holiday merchandise already in the country by that point, the number was down 1.7 per cent from October but up 5.8 per cent year-over-year.

December was estimated at 1.6 million TEUs, up 2.6 per cent year-over-year. The total for 2017 is expected to come to 20.1 million TEUs, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEUs by 7 per cent. That would be more than double 2016’s 3.1 per cent increase over 2015. The year 2017 set an all-time monthly record of 1.8 million TEUs in August, and included five of only seven months on record when imports have hit 1.7 million TEUs or higher.

NRF projects 1.68 million TEUs for January 2018, a 0.2 per cent rise over the same month last year.

Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.

“On a percentage basis, 2017 was one of the strongest increases we’ve seen since the end of the Great Recession,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.

“That’s no minor achievement at a time when many are trying to talk down the economy. The rate is expected to slow down some, but with 2017’s performance and continuing high consumer confidence, our models show continued growth in the coming year,” he added.

Global Port Tracker covers the US 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. (DS)

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