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Rail News: Intermodal

Cargo import increase likely for 2016, national retailers say


August is shaping up to be the busiest month of the year for import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports, now that retailers have stocked up for back-to-school shopping and are preparing for holiday season merchandise, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Cargo volume for 2016 likely will end the year with a 1.6 percent increase over last year's volume, NRF officials said in a press release.

"Shoppers are right in the middle of buying back-to-school products but the retail supply chain is already preparing for the holiday season," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "August is the peak month of the annual shipping season that builds up to the winter holidays, and a lot of the merchandise consumers will be buying this fall is already showing up at the docks."

Ports covered by the monthly Global Port Tracker report handled 1.58 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in June. That was down 2.8 percent from May and 0.5 percent from June 2015.

July was estimated at 1.64 million TEU, up 1.5 percent from the same month last year. August is forecast at 1.68 million TEU, down 0.3 percent from last year; September at 1.61 million TEU, down 0.6 percent; October at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.9 percent; November at 1.52 million TEU, up 2.9 percent, and December at 1.47 million TEU, 2.5 percent.

Those numbers should bring 2016 to a total of 18.5 million TEU, up 1.6 percent from 2015's total of 18.2 million TEU. The first half of 2016 totaled 8.98 million TEU, up 1.4 percent from the same period in 2015.
Consulting firm Hackett Associates produces the Global Port Tracker for NRF.

Much of the recent upturn in the U.S. economy is attributable to consumers, said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. He noted that the 5.1 percent increase in year-over-year retail sales in June as calculated by NRF was nearly twice the 2.6 percent increase in average hourly wages seen the same month.

"In these stressed times with uncertainty abounding amid an unusual presidential election and other issues, consumers have decided it is time to hit the stores and stock up on goods," said Hackett.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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