- July numbers for the nation's ports are showing mixed results, as imports have grown compared to earlier in the pandemic, but year-over-year (YoY) results vary. The Port of Long Beach showed 20% growth in loaded imports, while the Port of Virginia's volume slid 20%.
- "We are beginning to see some stabilization in volumes and we expect this to hold for the next two months or so," Virginia Port Authority CEO John F. Reinhart said in a statement. "The number of blank sailings is reducing and we are seeing an uptick in volume on some services, so the month-to-month cargo losses should subside during the near-term."
- The South Carolina Ports Authority — which saw a 13% YoY tonnage increase in July but hasn't released import numbers — said there were encouraging signs on a bounce-back, though a broader recovery will be dependent on a vaccine.
The summer import season is when retailers usually bring in cargo for what has, in recent years, become another mini-peak season: back-to-school shopping.
But some of the school staples slumped in the July import numbers, suggesting that retailers are being cautious in their buying, as many schools begin the year teaching remotely.
U.S. imports of kids’ footwear were down more than 44%, and apparel fell more than 29%, YoY in July. Backpacks were a bright spot, shipments of which were up more than 5% YoY in July, according to data from Panjiva.
Laptop shipments rose more than 6% YoY last month, driven by demand from remote learnings and working from home, Panjiva noted.
Apple CFO Luca Maestri said the company's non-iPhone products were "incredibly relevant, especially given the current circumstances," when an analyst asked about back-to-school season last month.
Retailers have spent the summer trying to figure out how to prepare for the uncertain demand that came this year.
"As we sit here today, we spend lots of time each and every week talking about what will happen, when, and if students go back to school, or back to college," Target CEO Brian Cornell said on an earnings call in May.
Falling numbers of blank sailings suggest carriers are optimistic about volume heading into the holiday season.
"We are encouraged by some signs of an initial rebound in our container and automotive volumes, as well as an increase in imports and a decline in blanked sailings," S.C. Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a statement.