US Retail imports level off after rush to beat tariffs

January 13, 2019 - United States Of America

Imports at major retail container ports in US have slowed down after months-long rush to beat increased tariffs on goods from China, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. US ports handled 1.81 million TEU in November, down 11.4 per cent from 2.04 million TEU set in October.

A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

The slowdown in imports is expected to continue in the coming months and the report estimates December imports at 1.79 million TEU, a 3.7 per cent year-over-year increase. January is forecast at 1.75 million TEU, down 0.9 per cent from January 2018; February at 1.67 million TEU, also down 0.9 per cent year-over-year; March at 1.55 million TEU, up 0.6 per cent; April at 1.69 million TEU, up 3.7 per cent, and May at 1.8 million TEU, down 1.3 per cent. February and March are typically two of the slowest months of the year for imports, both because of the post-holiday drop in demand and because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.

“With the holiday season behind us, the immediate pressure to stock up on merchandise has passed but retailers remain concerned about tariffs and their impact on the nation’s economy,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers have also brought in much of their spring merchandise early to protect consumers against higher prices that will eventually come with tariffs. Our industry is hoping the talks currently under way will bring an end to this ill-advised trade war and result in a more appropriate way of responding to China’s trade abuses that won’t force American consumers, workers and businesses to pay the price.”

“There have been record-high levels of imports over the past several months, primarily due to raised inventories ahead of expected tariff increases,” said founder Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates. “But we are projecting declining volumes in the coming months and an overall weakness in imports for the first half of the year.”

Global Port Tracker is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates. It covers the US ports of Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast, New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. (PC)