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Retail imports climb in December, full year 2013

Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 1.8% in December, compared to the same month last year, and the year should end with an increase of 2.3% from 2012.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million 20-ft. Equivalent Units (TEU) in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available.

That was down 0.4% from September as the peak shipping cycle wound down but up 6.4% from October 2012. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. November was estimated at 1.33 million TEU, up 3.6% from last year. December is forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 1.8% from last year. January 2014 is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, up 3.3% from January 2013; February at 1.18 million TEU, down 7.8% from last year; March at 1.32 million TEU, up 15.9%; and April at 1.38 million TEU, up 6.6%.

The total for 2013 is forecast at 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The first six months of 2013 totaled 7.8 million TEU, up 1.2% from the first half of 2012.

“Imports have seen good growth over last year and retailers are well-stocked as the holiday season continues,” Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy NRF said. “Holiday merchandise has made it from the ships to the shelves and the rest is up to the shoppers.”

The cargo numbers come as NRF predicts that this year’s holiday sales will grow 3.9% from last year to a total of $602.1 billion. Cargo import figures do not correlate directly with sales because they count only the number of cargo containers, not the value of the merchandise inside them, but are an indicator of retailers’ sales expectations.

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