WASHINGTON — The forecast for import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports showed a few dips in the run-up to the holiday season, but anticipated holiday consumer spending is expected to spur an uptick in cargo volume in the fourth quarter, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Shoppers are right in the middle of buying back-to-school products, but the retail supply chain is already preparing for the holiday season,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the NRF. “August is the peak month of the annual shipping season that builds up to the winter holidays, and a lot of the merchandise consumers will be buying this fall is already showing up at the docks.”
Cargo volume was down 2.8 percent in June compared with May at ports covered by Global Port Tracker, which handled 1.58 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units that month. The June volume (the latest for which data is available) was down 0.5 percent from June 2015. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
August is expected to be the peak shipping month of the year, but the forecast showed volume on a year-over-year basis down slightly. However, projected inventory growth and increases in cargo volume in the last quarter are expected to push the annual total up compared with last year.
July was estimated at 1.64 million TEU, up 1.5 percent from the same month last year. August is forecast at 1.68 million TEU, down 0.3 percent from last year; September at 1.61 million TEU, down 0.6 percent; October at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.9 percent; November at 1.52 million TEU, up 2.9 percent, and December at 1.47 million TEU, up 2.5 percent.
Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said much of the recent upturn in the U.S. economy is attributable to consumers, noting that the 5.1 percent increase in year-over-year retail sales in June as calculated by NRF was nearly twice the 2.6 percent increase in average hourly wages in June.
“In these stressed times with uncertainty abounding amid an unusual presidential election and other issues, consumers have decided it is time to hit the stores and stock up on goods,” Hackett said.
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach; Oakland, Calif., and Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey; Hampton Roads, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Port Everglades and Miami, Fla., on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.