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Shipping costs expected to rise amid political turmoil

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 11% in March, compared with the same month a year ago, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“These numbers show solid increases over last year and are evidence that our nation’s economic recovery is continuing to build momentum,” said Jonathan Gold, VP supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “Increases in imports are a clear sign that retailers expect sales to continue to climb in the next several months.”

But the climb in imports may soon be accompanied by a rise in shipping costs due to political turmoil in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, according to Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett.

“Oil supply is going down as a number of nations have dropped out of the production cycle,” Hackett said. “Freight rates have been decreasing, but that will not last long as fuel costs are factored in.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.2 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in January, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. (One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.) That was up 5% from December and 12% from January 2010. It was the 14th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.

February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.12 million TEU, which would represent an increase of 12% over February 2010. March is forecast at 1.19 million TEU, up 11% from a year ago.  

The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.5 million TEU, up 9% from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16% increase over 2009. Last year’s percentages were high because 2009’s 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003.

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GE names president of lighting division

BY HBSDEALER Staff

GE Home & Business Solutions announced that Maryrose Sylvester has been named president and CEO of GE Lighting, a global industry leader in lighting, systems and services for commercial, industrial and residential use. 

Sylvester, who will report to GE Appliances & Lighting president and CEO James Campbell, succeeds Michael Petras who has led GE Lighting since 2008. Petras is leaving GE to take a position outside of the company.  

Sylvester is a 23-year GE veteran, 14 years of which were spent at GE Lighting. She has led GE Intelligent Platforms, a global provider of software, hardware, services and expertise in automation and embedded computing, since 2006. During her previous tenure at GE Lighting, she held a variety of roles of increasing responsibility, including president and CEO of GE Lighting Systems, general manager of Worldwide Sourcing and director of Sourcing for GE Lighting Europe, based in Budapest, Hungary. 

A successor for Sylvester will be named shortly, the company reported. 

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Kitchens and gardens shine at Home Depot

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Atlanta-based Home Depot’s fourth quarter saw positive comp-store sales for the fifth straight period. Kitchens and gardens were among the highest-performing categories.

According to Home Depot’s Craig Menear, executive VP merchandising, the departments that outperformed the company average were kitchens, outdoor garden, indoor garden, electrical and tools.

Comparable-store sales for the company increased 3.9% for the three months ended Jan. 30. For stores in the United States, comp sales were positive 4.8%.

During the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, Menear also said heavy snow and ice in January led to double-digit positive comps in power snow removal equipment, chemicals and snow tool categories. 

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