Even though US imports are winding down for the year, Ben Hackett, the founder of Hackett Associates, says the economic conditions in the US remain stronger compared to Europe and Asia.

He notes economic downturns in both of these regions have led to decreased consumer demand, resulting in shipping companies having excess capacity on new vessels constructed in response to the cargo surge experienced in recent years.

“US consumers stand out in the global economy as they continue to benefit from job and wage growth and are still able to dip into savings accumulated during the pandemic,” Hackett says. “While US consumers are doing well, a global recession in cargo trade could potentially affect the supply chain.”

NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold remains confident in the supply chain’s operational efficiency. He says: “Port, railroad and delivery service labour contract issues that caused worries earlier in the year are behind us, and the supply chain is running smoothly. Shoppers should have no trouble finding what they want this year.”

Global Port Tracker’s latest data:

  • US imports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.03 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in September, the most recent month for which full statistics are available. This marked a slight decrease of 0.2% compared to the same period in the previous year but was a notable increase of 3.5% from August 2023. This milestone was the first time that imports reached the 2 million TEU mark since October 2022, making it the busiest month of the year to date and signaling the peak of the holiday shopping season in the US.
  • October’s numbers have not been finalised yet but are projected to account for 1.92 million TEUs, reflecting a 4.2% year-on-year decrease.
  • November is expected to see 1.88 million TEUs, a 5.8% increase from the same period last year, marking the first year-on-year gain since June 2022.
  • December’s forecast stands at 1.85 million TEUs, indicating a 6.8% year-over-year increase. These predictions would bring the total TEUs for 2023 to 22.1 million, which represents a 13.5% decrease from the previous year. In 2022, the total imports reached 25.5 million TEUs, declining by 1.2% from the annual record of 25.8 million TEUs set in 2021.
  • The forecast for January 2024 is 1.87 million TEUs, up by 3.7% year-on-year.
  • February, historically the slowest month due to Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia, is projected to account for 1.72 million TEUs, an 11.1% year-on-year increase.
  • March is expected to see 1.73 million TEUs, reflecting 6.5% year-on-year growth.

According to NRF’s forecast, this holiday season is expected to see robust sales growth between 3% and 4% compared to the previous year.

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NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz predicted a record-breaking holiday sales season in the US this year, with retailers shelves expected to be well-stocked to meet the demands of consumers, whether they choose to shop in physical stores or place online orders.

These figures are in line with pre-pandemic holiday growth rates. Anticipated total holiday sales volume is projected to range between $957.3bn and $966.6bn. This would easily surpass the previous record of $929.5bn set last year.

In October, Import cargo volume at major container ports in the US had reportedly peaked for the year and was anticipated to gradually slow down as the holiday season approached.