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US-bound import reach record high, says Port Tracker report

Goods imported by the United States witnessed its most demanding peak season this summer and fall as retailers restocked inventories and stocked up for the coming holiday season.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report – which was issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates – from July to October, US ports covered a projected 8.1 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) of container, up 6.1% year-over-year.

US-bound-import-reach-record-high
Figure: US imports set new peak season record ahead of holidays.

Port Tracker pegged September to come in at 2.08 million TEU, which would mark a 10.9% annual gain, adding that should this figure come to fruition it could end up being the second-highest month recorded. And October is expected to hit 1.86 million TEU, for a 1.1% annual decline.

Even if October is down, the report said that the forecasted tally for the July through October Peak Season—at 7.96 million TEU—would be a record, coming in ahead of 2018’s 7.7 million TEU, for the same period. What’s more, the report noted that 75% of peak season imports—at an estimated 6.1 million TEU—are already in the U.S.

The report authors also explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.

Jonathan Gold, Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, NRF said, “Retail supply chains are working overtime to keep up with demand. Nothing about this year is predictable, but retailers are making sure their shelves and warehouses are well-stocked for the holidays. They are also stocking up earlier than usual because they know many consumers will be shopping early this year to avoid crowds and shipping delays. Some holiday merchandise that normally wouldn’t arrive until Halloween is already here.”

The surveyed ports in the report comprise Los Angeles/Long Beach; Oakland; Tacoma; Seattle; Houston; New York/New Jersey; Hampton Roads; Charleston, and Savannah; Miami; Jacksonville; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades.

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