Retail Imports Remain Strong After Latest Round of Tariffs
Imports at the major retail container ports in the U.S. are expected to remain at near-record levels in October despite the new round of tariffs that took effect in September, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released this week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.89 million TEUs in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.6 percent from July but up 3.4 percent year-over-year.
September was estimated at 1.84 million TEUs, up 2.7 percent year-over-year. October is forecast at 1.87 million TEUs, up 4.3 percent; November at 1.8 million TEUs, up 2.3 percent, and December at 1.79 million TEUs, up four percent. January 2019 is forecast at 1.77 million TEUs, up 0.7 percent over January 2018, and February is forecast at 1.63 million TEUs, down 3.5 percent year-over-year.
Until this year, the record for the number of containers imported during a single month was 1.83 million TEUs, set in August 2017. But that record was broken this June, when 1.85 million TEUs were imported, and again in July, with 1.9 million TEUs. October will be the fifth month in a row to top last year’s peak.
“Retailers are continuing to import merchandise in order to meet consumer demand even though tariffs are now in place on roughly half the goods imported from China and the trade war is still escalating,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers are doing their best to mitigate the impact on their customers, but they are not able to quickly or easily change their sourcing. That means these tariffs will eventually mean higher prices for American consumers.”
While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the imports mirror this year’s strong retail sales. NRF forecast last week that 2018 holiday season retail sales – excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations – will increase between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent over last year. Retail sales for all of 2018 are forecast to be up at least 4.5 percent over 2017.
The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million TEUs, an increase of 5.1 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEUs, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.
Global Port Tracker 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.