US retail imports likely to set new record this month: NRF

Driven by increasing consumer demand and rising retail sales, imports at major retail container ports in the US are expected to set a new record this month even though new tariffs on goods from China just took effect, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers cannot easily or quickly change their global supply chains, so imports from China and elsewhere are expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

“As tariffs begin to hit imported consumer goods or the parts and equipment needed to produce US goods, these hidden taxes will mean higher prices for Americans rather than significant changes to international trade.”
“July 6 was the beginning of the United States’ trade war,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said, referring to US tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese products. “There will be no winners, only losers – particularly consumers – as costs increase.”
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.82 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 11.6 per cent from April as the annual wave of summer merchandise began to arrive and up 4.3 per cent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
June was estimated at 1.83 million TEU, up 6.8 per cent year-over-year. July is forecast at 1.87 million TEU, up 3.8 per cent; August at 1.91 million TEU, up 4.2 per cent; September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1 per cent; and October at 1.89 million, up 5.3 per cent.
The June number tied the record of 1.83 million TEU imported during a single month set in August 2017, and the forecast for July would break that record while August should set yet another record.
“While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the record imports mirror strong results seen by retailers this spring and expectations of continued growth through the remainder of the year,” NRF said in a press release.
Retail sales as calculated by NRF – excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations –  were up 5.6 per cent year-over-year in May and up 4.6 per cent on a three-month moving average. NRF is forecasting that total 2018 sales will be up between 3.8 per cent and 4.4 per cent over 2017.
The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 4.9 per cent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6 per cent from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

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