The most recent Global Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates indicates that discretionary spending growth has been impacted by concerns over inflation and high-interest rates, particularly in categories such as groceries, automobiles and mortgages.

“Cargo volumes will still be strong for the rest of the year, but not as high as we expected a month ago,” stated Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the NRF.

In September, retailers were reportedly optimistic as they geared up for the upcoming holiday season, signalling confidence in consumer demand.

Retailers took early measures to stock up their inventory in response to potential supply chain labour challenges, ensuring they are well-prepared to meet consumer demand ahead of the holiday season.

Although consumers are expected to again spend more than they did the previous year, the rate of growth has decelerated, prompting retailers to carefully manage their supply and demand dynamics.

Consumer spending, which grew by 1.8% year-on-year in the second quarter, fell short of the initially estimated 2.3%. The NRF had previously forecasted retail sales growth for the year to range between 4% to 6% year-on-year.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Ben Hackett, founder at Hackett Associates, notes that this change in consumer spending behaviour is already influencing the operational decisions of carriers. He says: “They have slowed down their ships in an attempt to cut capacity without having to take vessels out of service as new, larger ones ordered when demand was higher are delivered. Even so, ships are not sailing fully loaded, and freight rates are declining as a result. That’s a further indication that no cargo growth from current levels is expected on the near-term horizon. Perhaps 2024 will be better.”

Global Port Tracker report takeaways for US cargo ahead of holiday season

  • Global Port Tracker had initially projected inbound volume at US ports to reach 2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in August and maintain that level throughout October. However, August figures indicate that ports handled 1.96 million TEU, marking a 2.3% increase from July. Despite this uptick, it represents a 13.5% decrease year-on-year.
  • September numbers are yet to be reported, but the Global Port Tracker estimates a 4.3% year-on-year decline, with October also expected to be down by 3.1% year-on-year at 1.94 million TEU.
  • November’s forecast projects an improvement, with 1.91 million TEU, showing a 7.5% increase, which would be the first year-on-year gain since June 2022.
  • December is expected to see an 8.9% year-on-year increase with 1.88 million TEU.
  • Gradually, these numbers are expected to bring the total import volume for 2023 to 22.1 million TEU, a 13.5% reduction from the previous year’s 25.5 million TEU. It is important to note that imports in 2022 had already declined by 1.2% from the record-setting year of 2021 when 25.8 million TEU were recorded.
  • Looking ahead to January 2024, it is forecasted to remain steady with December figures at 1.88 million TEU, marking a 4.2% increase year-on-year.
  • February, typically the slowest month of the year due to Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia, is forecasted to reach 1.74 million TEU, showing a 12.7% year-on-year growth.