US retail imports will drop to annual low in March, says NRF
today Mar 12, 2019
With the retail industry in its annual lull between seasons and plans for a tariff increase on hold, imports at major US retail container ports are expected to drop to their lowest level in almost a year in the current month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
“Now that the holiday season is over and summer has yet to crank up, this is the quiet time of year for retail supply chains,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Retailers are also taking a break from the rush to bring merchandise in ahead of tariff hikes now that the increase that was scheduled for March has been delayed. We are hoping that the delay is permanent and, better yet, that tariffs of the past year will be removed entirely. But either way, imports will start to build up again as soon as retailers prepare for the summer.”
US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.89 million twenty-foot equivalent units in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.7 per cent from December following end of the holiday season but up 7.4 per cent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
February was estimated at 1.79 million TEU, up 6.2 per cent from February 2018. March is forecast at 1.59 million TEU, up 3.2 per cent year-over-year but the lowest level since 1.63 million TEU in April 2018. February and March are historically the two slowest shipping months of the year both because retailers are between major shopping seasons and because of factory shutdowns in Asia during the Lunar New Year holiday, the report said. April is forecast at 1.75 million TEU, May at 1.88 million TEU, June at 1.88 million TEU, and July at 1.96 million TEU.
Imports during 2018 set a new record of 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2 per cent over 2017’s previous record of 20.5 million TEU. The first half of 2019 is expected to total 10.8 million TEU, up 4.8 per cent over the first half of 2018.
“The trade war with China is turning out not to have the results President Trump expected,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. “Imports from China did not decline – in fact, they soared to record levels.”
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