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Sandy does little to impact retail imports, which climbed 5.9% in November

Washington -- Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 5.9% in November despite the temporary closure of some ports by superstorm Sandy, according to National Retail Federation's monthly Global Port Tracker report released today.

"Sandy certainly caused major problems that are still being cleaned up, but retailers managed to get their cargo into the country and will have plenty of merchandise on store shelves for the holidays," explained Jonathan Gold, NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy. "While there was clearly a regional impact, at this point the storm is not expected to have a major effect on holiday sales numbers."

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, 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, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

These ports handled 1.42 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was the same as August but up 3.3% from September 2011.

One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

October was estimated at 1.46 million TEU, up 10.7% from last year, with November forecast at 1.37 million TEU, up 5.9%, and December forecast at 1.34 million TEU, up 9.4%. January is forecast at 1.39 million TEU, up 8.2% from January 2012; February at 1.22 million TEU, up 12%; and March at 1.26 million TEU, up 1.6%.

August, September and October are the three busiest months of the year as retailers bring merchandise into the country for the holiday season, and volume for the three months combined was up 5.8% at 4.3 million TEU. While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.

The first half of 2012 totaled 7.7 million TEU, up 2.9% from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 is expected to total 16.1 million TEU, up 4.5% from 2011.

"The full extent of the impact from the mayhem and destruction of Hurricane Sandy is still being assessed, but it should hopefully not have too much of a detrimental effect on trade," said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. "The New York/New Jersey terminals were impacted for a short period but cargo destined for there was handled elsewhere until service returned. Rebuilding of infrastructure and homes should cause an uptick for imports of construction materials."

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