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Retail Rebound Drives Surge in Imports

Dec 16, 2020 7:38 AM   By Rapaport News
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This year could tie as the busiest on record for US retail imports, as consumer demand during the holiday shopping period led to a surge in shipments, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said.

Imports for the full year are expected to reach 21.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), up 1% over 2019, despite predictions as recently as last month that 2020 would see a 3% decrease, the NRF reported last week.

“With inventories low, but demand growing, we have witnessed a surge in imports as retailers try to keep up,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett in the NRF and Hackett Associates’ Global Port Tracker Report. “The dramatic shift to online shopping coupled with the expectation of next-day delivery is also spurring the growth of imports at warehouses, [which] need to have enough stock on hand not just to meet demand, but to meet it instantly.”

Imports for the peak season — the period from July to October, when retailers bring in merchandise for the holidays — rose 9% year on year to 8.3 million TEU, beating the 7.7 million TEU record set in 2018. In November, import figures remained strong, despite being past the peak ordering period, the NRF said. Shipments for the month increased 22% over the same period a year ago, becoming the fourth-busiest month on record. December imports are forecast to grow 11% year on year to 1.91 million TEU.

“At this point, retailers have seen a successful holiday season so far, and goods are reaching the shelves,” noted Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

The NRF predicted holiday sales for the November-to-December period would increase 3.6% to 5.2% to reach between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

Image: A cargo ship leaving the port with containers. (Shutterstock)
Tags: Ben Hackett, Global Port Tracker Report, Hackett Associates, Jonathan Gold, National Retail Federation, NRF, Rapaport News, US retail imports
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