Retail Imports Will Rise During the First Half of the Year

With wages going up and unemployment going down, shoppers are expected to continue hitting the stores, which means more imports will be coming in by the boatload.

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to grow at a healthy 4.9 percent during the first six months of 2018, according to the National Retail Federation’s monthly Global Port Tracker report. That would mean approximately 10.3 million 20-foot containers will be arriving at the nation’s docks.

“We’re forecasting significant sales growth this year, and that means retailers will have to import more merchandise to meet consumer demand,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “With the benefits of pro-growth tax reform coming on top of solid fundamentals like higher employment and improved confidence, we expect a good year ahead.”

The NRF forecast recently predicted that retail sales in the United States will grow 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent over 2017’s $3.53 trillion sales volume.

Last year was a banner year for imports being shipped into the country in cargo containers. The country’s major ports handled 20.5 million imported containers. That is a 7.6 percent jump over 2016, when 19.1 million containers arrived on cargo ships.

Already, January’s numbers show a 4.1 percent rise in cargo volume from the previous January with an estimated 1.77 million containers. February is forecast to see a 14.8 percent uptick over last year with 1.67 million containers, and March will be down 1.1 percent to 1.54 million containers. The February and March numbers are skewed because of when Asian factories close for the Lunar New Year each year.

“It’s clear that 2017 turned out to be a remarkable year in terms of import container volume,” said Ben Hackett, whose Hackett Associates prepares the quarterly “Global Port Tracker” report. “That level of growth is difficult to sustain, however, and our models suggest that 2018 will continue to expand but only at about half that pace despite strong fundamentals that indicate a healthy economy and continued growth in consumer spending.”