Home March Sets Import Record As Retailers Buy Ahead of Inflation
May 11, 2022
March Sets Import Record As Retailers Buy Ahead of Inflation
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Ports in the United States covered by Global Port Tracker handled a record 2.34 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units – one 20-foot container or its equivalent – in March, the latest month for which final numbers are available.

The March figure was up 10.8% from February and up 3.2% year over year. It beat the previous record of 2.33 million TEU set in May 2021 for the number of containers imported in a single month.

Retailers have been bringing in merchandise ahead of rising costs and further supply chain issues, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. Indeed, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports set a new spring record and should see near-record volumes continue arriving.

Ports haven’t reported April numbers yet, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.27 million TEU, up 5.7% year over year. It forecast May at 2.3 million TEU, down 1.4% from the month a year before but still the third-highest level on record. Port Tracker pegged June at 2.29 million TEU, up 6.6% from last year; July at 2.31 million TEU, up 5.3%, August at 2.29 million TEU, up 0.9%, and September at 2.15 million TEU, up 0.3%.

The expectation for the first six months of 2022 is 13.5 million TEU, up 5.1% year over year. Imports for all of 2021 totaled 25.8 million TEU, up 17.4% versus 2020’s previous annual record of 22 million TEU.

“Retailers are importing record amounts of merchandise to meet consumer demand, but they also have an incentive to stock up before inflation can drive costs higher,” NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said, in announcing the port figures. “Whether it’s freight costs or the wholesale cost of merchandise, money retailers save is money that can be used to hold down prices for their customers during a time of inflation. In addition, retailers are preparing for any potential disruptions because of the West Coast port labor negotiations, which are set to begin next week. NRF has previously encouraged the parties to remain at the table and not engage in disruptions if a new contract is not reached by the time the current agreement expires July 1.”

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett added, “Consumer spending is growing faster than income growth, perhaps as shoppers buy ahead of expected rising prices. Importers are doing much the same as they continue to replenish their inventories. Doing so will protect them against potentially rising freight costs, further delays in the supply chain and complications in upcoming labor negotiations at U.S. West Coast ports.”

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.

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