The Global Port Tracker retail industry shipping report on Monday issued a sharply reduced projection for containerized imports this fall, forecasting just a 2.6 percent increase in container volume after estimates shipments in September came in far below earlier expectations.
September imports were estimated to be up only 2.7 percent over September 2010 imports at major U.S. ports, according to the report by Ben Hackett Associates issued by the National Retail Federation. Actual August imports measured by the report were down 7 percent year-over-year.
Last month’s Global Port Tracker projected September volume would be up 11.8 percent year-over-year and October would be up 9.5 percent over the same months in 2010.
The gap reflects a disconnect this year between consumer optimism polls and actual retail sales.
“General economic indicators are giving us a mixed set of signals,” Hackett said. “Yet at the same time there are indications that things are not quite that bad. We are of the opinion that the probability for economic growth is higher that the probability of recession.”
Global Port Tracker relies on information provided by retailers through the National Retail Federation. Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said stores have been careful all year to keep inventory levels in line with expectations for sales.
“Retailers are poised to succeed in maintaining the careful balance between inventory and sales that keeps customers happy while keeping retailers profitable,” Gold said.
In August, the last month for which actual imports are available, volume was down 7 percent compared to August 2010. August was the peak month last year. Port Tracker projects imports will be up 2.7 percent in September, 2.6 percent in October, 4 percent in November and 2.7 percent in December.
January 2012 is forecast to be down 3.6 percent from January 2011 and February down 3.8 percent from February 2011.