Import volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to inch up a “modest” 1.1 percent year-over-year in July, although “significant” increases are forecasted to follow this year’s sluggish summer as retailers head into the holiday season this fall, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report, released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“With the economy recovering slowly, retailers have been cautious with imports this summer, but it’s clear that they expect an upturn later in the year,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in a written statement. “Import numbers have been close to flat since spring, but we expect to see stronger increases this fall.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.38 million 20-foot-equivalent units in May (the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available), rising 1.2 percent from April and 0.6 percent from May 2012. June was estimated at 1.37 million TEUs, down 0.7 percent from a year ago, while July is forecast at 1.43 million TEUs, up 1.1 percent. The first six months of 2013 totaled about 7.8 million TEUs, improving 1.2 percent from the first half of 2012.
Despite the projected increase in imports, Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said actual results will hinge on consumer confidence.
“Consumer sales remain relatively weak compared with [gross domestic product],” Hackett said. “If consumers do not turn their confidence into purchases, then import volumes will drop.”