U.S. containerized imports registered their lowest growth rate since the 2008-09 recession ended, increasing just 1.5 percent to 17.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2012, according to the JOC’s quarterly Container Shipping Outlook.
Battered by a stubbornly slow economic recovery and stubbornly high jobless rate, consumers largely weren’t in the mood to spend in 2012. By the time much-hyped issues related to federal cuts mandated by sequestration in Washington, D.C., calmed, pent-up consumers were ready to open their wallets and purses, splurging for big-ticket cars, appliances and, yes, new homes that have helped to boost containerized imports this year.
So 2013’s growth levels will appear much more in line with mid-single-digit rates we’ve grown accustomed to over the past several years.
But in 2012, those retailers who performed best were of the discount variety, selling consumer merchandise of all kinds. Indeed, if economics history tells us anything, it’s that when the economy sours, consumers rein in their spending. So, the top-ranked company on The Journal of Commerce’s list of Top 100 Importers for 2012 will come as no surprise. It has, after all, been No. 1 for the last decade — and longer.
A second lesson is that food is largely resistant to economic swings. We all have to eat, after all, and you’ll see evidence of that in this, the Top 10 containerized importers for 2012.