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-- Higher Imports 'Good Sign' Of What US Retailers Expect Re Consumer Purchases
By Vicki Schmelzer
     NEW YORK (MNI)   - Import traffic at major U.S. retail container ports is
expected to set a new record in August, with 2017 import volumes also on track
for a new annual record, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report,
released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. 
     August imports are forecast at 1.75 million TEU, or Twenty-Foot Equivalent
Units, which would be 2.1% above last year.  
     "That would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking
imports in 2000, topping the 1.73 million TEU seen in March 2015," the NRF said.
     "The 1.7 million-plus numbers seen in May and July and now expected for
August and October would represent four of the six busiest months in the
report's history," the report added. 
     In June, "the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available,"
ports covered by GPT handled 1.69 million TEU, which was down 2% from May, but
up 7.5% from June 2016. 
     July import figures, not yet final, were estimated at 1.72 TEU, up 5.6%
over the same month last year, the report said. 
     Looking ahead, September imports are forecast at 1.67 million TEU, October
at 1.72 million TEU, November at 1.62 million TEU and December at 1.59 million
TEU, which is up 4.7%, up 3.0%, down 1.4% and up 1.5% over the same months in
2016. 
     "Those numbers would bring 2017 to a total of 19.7 million TEU, topping
last year's previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 4.9 percent," the NRF said. 
     This compared to 2016's 3.1% increase over 2015, the report said. 
     The NFR's GPT covers U.S. 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.
     "These latest numbers are a good sign of what retailers expect in terms of
consumer demand over the next few months," said NRF Vice President for Supply
Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.
     The NRF forecasts that 2017 retail sales - excluding automobiles, gasoline
and restaurants - should increase by 3.7% to 4.2% compared to 2016, "driven by
job and income growth coupled with low debt." 
     "Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the
number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but
nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers' expectations," the NRF said.
     July retail sales data is scheduled to be released August 15, with August
data set for release September 15.
--MNI New York Bureau; tel: +1 212-669-6438; email: vicki.schmelzer@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: M$U$$$]