Imports, Retail Sales and Economy Should All Improve in 2017

Feb. 13, 2017
Infrastructure investments promised by the Trump administration could lead to stronger retail import growth than in 2016.

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to increase 4.6% during the first half of 2017 over the same period last year as the nation’s economy improves and retail sales continue to grow, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report produced by the National Retail Federation and consulting firm Hackett Associates.

“This is very much in line with what we are forecasting for retail sales and consumer spending this year,” says Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers try to balance inventories very carefully with demand. So, when retailers import more merchandise, that’s a pretty good indicator of what they are expecting to happen with sales.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.58 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.8% from November as the holiday season came to an end but up 10.2% from December 2015. That brought 2016 cargo volume to a total of 18.8 million TEUs, up 3.2% from 2015, which had grown 5.4% from 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

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