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Rail News: Shippers

NRF: Retail imports up in 2015, early results show


The total number of twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) units coming into U.S. major retail container ports rose 5.4 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, according to preliminary numbers from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Still subject to revision, the 2015 total added up to 18.2 million TEU, according to the Global Port Tracker report, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates.

The report covers the ports of Los 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.

The ports handled 1.48 million TEU in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. With most holiday merchandise already in the country by that point, volume was down 5 percent from October, but up 6 percent from the year before. December was estimated at 1.44 million TEU, the same as 2014, according to the NRF.

With the 2015 holiday season now concluded, import cargo volume at the ports is expected to slowly decline through first-quarter 2016.

"This is the time of year when the retail supply chain catches its breath before the next big rush begins," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in a press release. "Retailers are still tallying the bottom line of the holiday season, but they’re also making plans for the spring and summer."

This month is forecast at 1.47 million TEU, an increase of 18.9 percent compared with January 2015, which was just before an agreement was reached on a West Coast dockworkers contract that ended months of congestion.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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