- Retail imports at the nation’s major ports are expected to increase 4.4% this month over last year, and will likely see a further increase in December, according to a recent press release by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
- Incoming retail volume in October was approximately 1.67 million TEU, up 7.5% from last year. The NRF is forecasting $655.8 billion in holiday sales, a 3.6% increase over last year.
- Import growth is not always indicative of stronger demand, however. NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold cautioned that the projected annual 2% growth is slower than desired, and may signify weakened demand.
Tying import growth to sales demand is an imperfect science at best, as the NRF recognizes, but can serve as a useful indicator for retailer expectations. Growth aside, the data shows retail imports are at the highest levels in a decade this year, and only time will tell whether demand meets the rise in supply.
In fact, indicators across the supply chain indicate this holiday season will be just as good if not better than previous years: Warehouses are opening in diverse geographic areas across the country; seasonal workers are being hired in droves; FedEx and UPS are expecting record years in packages delivered; and air cargo is on the rise as a preferred method of shipping, perhaps due to its speed and domestic reach.
The slowed growth in year-over-year container imports, then, may not be a result from decreased demand, then, but a decreased reliance on maritime container shipping, temporary disruptions like Hanjin, or a tempered scale of holiday-imports due to improved better forecasting and a more spread out sales season.