Retail Container Traffic to Bounce Back This Spring
February 22, 2012,
But "significant year-over-year increases" are expected come springtime, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
"We're headed into the slow season for cargo shipments, but forecasts indicate that retailers will be stocking up this spring in anticipation of a moderate recovery as the year progresses," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy. "Cargo volume doesn't translate directly into sales volume, but when retailers import more it's because they expect to sell more."
Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of: Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
These U.S. ports handled 1.25 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2.1% from October since most holiday merchandise was already on the shelves but up 1.2% from November 2010.
One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
December was estimated at 1.21 million TEU, up 5.9% from a year ago. The total for 2011 was estimated 14.86 million TEU, up 0.7% from 2010's 14.75 million TEU.
January 2012 is forecast at 1.21 million TEU, up one-tenth of 1% from January 2011. February, historically the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.06 million TEU, down 3.3% from a year ago. March is forecast at 1.2 million TEU, up 10.5% from last year; April at 1.26 million TEU, up 3.8%; and May at 1.3 million TEU, up 0.9%.
"Continuing uncertainty and the run-up to the elections raise a cloud, as does the pressure on declining incomes as firms hire at lower rates," said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. "Nevertheless, the consumer managed to increase savings during most of 2011 and now has a tidy safety net from which to increase consumption as the risk of unemployment recedes. All of these indicators suggest that we are not heading for another recession, but rather for a sustained level of low growth."