Containerized imports will increase gradually during the summer months and are projected to rise sharply in September and October, according to the Global Port Tracker published by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
Global Port Tracker is basing its forecast for a strong peak shipping season on recent readings regarding consumer confidence and retail sales in the U.S.
“Retail sales have seen 22 straight months of year-over-year sales increases, and these import projections suggest retailers should see growth into the two-year mark and beyond,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy.
“Consumer confidence is at the highest level since 2007,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates.
Global Port Tracker estimates that containerized imports at U.S. ports were up only 0.5 percent in May compared to May 2011. Growth is projected to reach 4.8 percent in June, 2.5 percent in July and 7.3 percent in August compared to the same months last year.
Growth in container volumes is projected to increase to 9 percent in September and 19.9 percent in October, traditionally the strongest months of the year for imports from Asia. Global Port Tracker noted the October numbers would receive an extra boost because they will be compared to unusually weak numbers in October 2011.
The trans-Pacific trade could use a dose of optimism for the second half of the year. Containerized imports in the first six months of 2012 are projected to increase only 2 percent from the first half of 2011.
Hackett said the trade is dealing with economic uncertainties around the globe and conflicting reports in the U.S. For example, consumer demand for durable goods has been weak for some time and dropped further in May, yet consumer confidence now is quite high.
“Confused? So is the average consumer,” he said.