Import traffic at the nation's 11 major container ports broke a record for the second month running as retailers brought in merchandise for the busy holiday season, according to the monthly "Global Port Tracker" report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consulting firm Hackett Associates.
The ports handled 1.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in August—the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available—up 1.4 percent over July and 5.6 percent over August 2016, the report showed. The volume was the highest recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the previous record of 1.78 million TEU set just one month earlier in July.
"When imports break records two months in a row, it's hard to see that as anything other than a good sign about what retailers expect in consumer demand," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. "Consumers are buying more, and everybody from dockworkers to truck drivers is trying to keep up. We hope this is a sign of a strong holiday season for retailers, shoppers, and our nation's economy."
What's more, imports are still continuing at unusually high levels, so the torrid pace of growth is not done yet, the report found. September volume was estimated at 1.65 million TEU, up 3.7 percent from last year, and October is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 2.8 percent, according to the NRF-Hackett report.
While not a record, the October number would be one of only six times in the report's history that the monthly total has hit 1.7 million TEU or higher. Overall, growth has slowed from the first half of the year, but 2017 is expected to total 19.8 million TEU, topping last year's previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 5.4 percent.
The Global Port Tracker study, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Calif., and Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Va., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Port Everglades, Fla., and Miami on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.