Posted on October 11, 2016 · Posted in Industrial / Flex, Retail

October is expected to be the second busiest month this year for import container volumes at major container ports in the United States, trailing behind August, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“The holidays are nearly here, and from warehouses to store shelves, retailers are making sure they have the merchandise on hand to meet consumers’ demands,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “November and December are the busiest time for holiday shopping, but this is the month for the behind-the-scenes supply chain work that ensures shoppers will find what they want, where they want it, when they want it.”

Ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.71 million TEUs in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. The August result, which has been the busiest month of the year so far, rose 5 percent from July and 1.7 percent from last August.

The Global Port Tracker estimated that volumes dipped to 1.64 million TEUs in September, but were still up 0.9 percent from last year. October is forecast at 1.65 million TEUs, up 6 percent from last year; November at 1.54 million TEUs, up 3.9 percent; and December at 1.48 million TEUs, up 3.4 percent.

The numbers come as NRF is forecasting $655.8 billion in holiday sales, a 3.6 percent increase over last year. Although cargo volumes do not correlate directly to sales, volumes do serve as a barometer of retailers’ expectations, NRF said.

Cargo volumes for 2016 are expected to total 18.6 million TEUs, up 2.1 percent from last year. Total volumes for 2015 reached 18.2 million TEUs, up 5.4 percent from 2014. For the first half of 2016, cargo volumes inched up 1.6 percent year-over-year to 9 million TEUs.

Looking ahead into 2017, January is forecast at 1.53 million TEUs, up 2.7 percent from January 2016, and February is forecast at 1.47 million TEUs, down 4.4 percent from February 2016.

After a long period of high inventory levels, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett noted the retail industry inventory-to-sales ratio stood at 1.49 in July, the latest number available from the U.S. Census Bureau. That was down from 1.5 in June and a peak of 1.52 in March.

“The inventory-to-sales ratio, one of the best indicators of where the economy is going, is finally declining,” Hackett said. “It’s not down by much, but the key is that the sharp rise seen earlier this year appears to have come to an end.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston.

 

Source: American Shipper

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