Novembers US import volume is set to grow 8.3%

November's US import volume is set to grow 8.3%

Import cargo volume at major US retail container ports is expected increase significantly year-on-year in November as consumers begin their holiday shopping. 

November import volume is predicted to reach 1.51m containers, up 8.3% from the same month last year, but down on the 1.61m estimated for October, according to the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. 

“Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. 

“That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labour negotiations. Retailers had instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.” 

Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with sales because they count only the number of cargo containers, not the value of the merchandise inside them. Nonetheless, the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers' expectations.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62m Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.5% from August, but up 2.2% from a year ago. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent. 

October was estimated at 1.63m TEU, up 4.5% from 2014. November is forecast at 1.51m TEU, up 8.3% from last year, and December at 1.44m TEU, up 0.4% year-on-year. 

Those numbers would bring 2015 to 18.35m TEU, up 6.1% from last year. The first half of 2015 totalled 8.9m TEU, up 6.5% over the same period a year ago. 

January 2016 is forecast at 1.46m TEU, up 18.5% from weak numbers seen a year earlier before West Coast dockworkers agreed a new contract that ended a months-long labour dispute in February 2015. 

February is forecast at 1.41m TEU, up 17.9%, also skewed by the labour dispute. March is predicted at 1.35m TEU, down 21.9% from a year ago because of large volumes seen after the contract agreement. 

“Inflation remains non-existent, which worries the Federal Reserve, but with unemployment at 5% we expect to see rising take-home pay that will translate into higher sales,” added Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. “In sum, the US economy is doing well.”

Last month, the NRF said it expects sales to rise 3.7% this holiday season – an increase that outpaces the ten-year average of 2.5%, but is less than the 4.1% gain last year. 

Last week a key meeting of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) heard that the US clothing industry is benefiting from a sharp rebound in logistics following the end of last year’s West Coast port dispute. Click on the following link to read more: 

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