Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 5.1% in September over the same month last year as retailers head into the holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are making up for the slow imports seen earlier in the year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “It’s too early to predict holiday sales, but merchants are clearly stocking up.”
Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them. But the amount of merchandise imported nonetheless provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million cargo containers in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was a 5.4% increase over June and up 1.1% from July 2012, and follows year-over-year declines in three of the four previous months.
August was estimated at 1.48 million containers up 4.1% from last year. September is forecast at 1.48 million, up 5.1%, with 1.46 million containers in October, up 9 percent.
For the first half 2013 cargo rose 1.2% and total year projections are 16.2 million containers, up 2.5% from last year.
“The U.S. economy is on the road to sustained growth,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Second-quarter GDP was well above expectations and surprised most forecasters, the unemployment picture is improving, and we believe consumer confidence will translate into increased sales during the fourth quarter.”