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Major U.S. retail container ports logged record imports this summer and fall, recording their busiest peak season as retailers replenish inventories and stock up for the holiday season, according to a Global Port Tracker report released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled an estimated 8.1 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from July through October, the peak shipping season.
While subject to revision once October numbers become final, that would represent an increase of 6.1% over the same period last year and would beat the previous record of 7.7 million TEUs set in 2018, NRF officials said in a press release.
The peak season record includes 2.11 million TEUs imported in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was 0.1% higher than the previous record of 2.1 million TEUs set in August for the largest number of containers imported in a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.
October imports were estimated at 2 million TEUs, up 6.5% year over year and the fourth-highest month on record.
Part of the surge was fueled by restocking after retail sales rebounded this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, NRF officials said in a press release.
"Whether similar patterns will continue in the coming months will be influenced to a large extent by the coronavirus pandemic and whether it will be brought under control by the arrival of expected vaccines next year," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.