Import cargo volumes at major retail container ports in the US are expected to increase by 9.9% in October as retailers stock up for Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Figures from the Global Port Tracker report, compiled by the NRF and Hackett Associates, suggest that ports will handle about 1.45m Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in October, completing the busiest three months of the year.

August was up 3.3% on last year to 1.42m TEU, and September is estimated at 1.49m TEU, up 8%, meaning that the August to October period is poised to increase 7% on last year.

Forecasting holiday sales up 4.1% to US$586.1bn, the NRF said monthly cargo volumes would fall away for the remainder of the year, but would remain above 2011 levels.

For the full year, 2012 is expected to reach 16m TEU, up 4.1% on 2011.

“NRF’s annual forecast says retailers should see solid growth during the holiday season this year and these cargo numbers back it up,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

“Increased imports show that retailers have gauged the market and expect increased sales.”