WASHINGTON, February 15, 2012 – Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be down 6.8 percent in February from the same month a year ago, but should show year-over-year increases through most of the remaining first half of 2012, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“With consumer confidence building, retailers are optimistic that the economy is recovering but are continuing to be cautious with their inventory levels,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“Merchants want to be sure that growth will be sustained and that demand will be there to meet supply.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.17 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 6 percent from November since holiday merchandise was already on the shelves but up 2 percent from December 2010 and brought 2011 to a close at 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4 percent from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
January 2012 was estimated at 1.17 million TEU, down 3.3 percent from January 2011, and February, historically the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.03 million TEU, down 6.8 percent from a year ago. Increases are expected to resume in March, forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 8.6 percent from last year.
April is forecast at 1.25 million TEU, up 2.4 percent; May at 1.28 million TEU, down 0.7 percent; and June at 1.28 million, up 3 percent. The first half of 2012 should total 7.18 million TEU, up 0.5 percent from the same period last year.
“Current statistics suggest that the economy will continue to improve as we continue into 2012,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “The question is will wholesalers and retailers be able to manage their inventories as well as they did in 2011? Most likely, yes.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalportracker.com.
As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans.
Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation. www.nrf.com
Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.