Increases in retail container traffic expected through back-to-school season

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports will be flat in May compared with the same month last year, but is expected to see solid year-over-year increases through this summer and the back-to-school season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. 

“Consumers are spending despite gas prices and other economic concerns, so retailers are stocking up to meet the demand,” said NRF VP supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “These numbers show imports growing through the back-to-school season and even into the beginning of the shipping cycle for the holiday season. That’s a sign that retailers are expecting a good year.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.18 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 14.1% from February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, and 8.5% from March 2011. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

April was estimated at 1.24 million TEU, up 2% from a year ago, and May is forecast at 1.28 million TEU, the same as last year. June is forecast at 1.3 million TEU, up 4%; July at 1.35 million TEU, up 1.8%; August at 1.42 million TEU, up 7.2%; and September at 1.45 million TEU, up 8.7%.

The first half of 2012 should total 7.3 million TEU, up 1.9% from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU. NRF projects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.

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