Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports saw an unexpected increase during the industry’s busy holiday season, according to a report released on January 10 by the National Retail Federation.
“We won’t see final sales numbers for a few more days, but import volume suggests that retailers had a strong holiday season,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers don’t import merchandise unless they think they can sell it.”
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.64 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1.6% from October since most imported holiday merchandise had already arrived but up 11.2% from November 2015.
The association had previously predicted a year-over-year increase of 3.6%.
December was estimated at 1.54 million TEU, up 7% year-over-year rather than the 3.2% that had been expected.
Cargo volume does not correlate directly to sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.