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NRF: Sales up as retailers rush to beat tariff impact

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEU) in June. Pictured is the Port of Savannah.
Photo – Port of Savannah

Imports at the nation's major retail container ports have set two new records this summer and are expected to set another this month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

The records are due in part to rising retail sales and retailers rushing to bring merchandise into the country ahead of proposed new tariffs on products from China, according to an NRF press release.

"Tariffs on most consumer products have yet to take effect but retailers appear to be getting prepared before that can happen," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "We're seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come."

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEU) in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 1.6 percent from May and up 7.8 percent year over year.

July was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.4 percent year over year; August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, also up 4.4 percent.

The June number set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, beating the previous record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017. The July estimate – which is subject to revision when the numbers become final – appeared to take the record higher and August should set yet another record, NRF officials said.

While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the record imports mirror strong results seen by retailers this spring and summer that are expected to continue through the rest of the year, they said.

Retail sales — excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations — as calculated by NRF were up 4.2 percent year-over-year in June and up 4.4 percent on a three-month moving average.

NRF is forecasting that total 2018 sales will be up between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/10/2018