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NRF expects retail container traffic to increase

2012's first half to overcome February dip

The National Retail Federation expects import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports to be down 6.8% in February from the same month a year ago, but should show year-over-year increases through most of the remaining first half of 2012.
This is based on NRF's monthly Global Port Tracker, which was released this week and, as usual, was produced with consulting firm Hackett Associates.
"With consumer confidence building, retailers are optimistic that the economy is recovering but are continuing to be cautious with their inventory levels," said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy. "Merchants want to be sure that growth will be sustained and that demand will be there to meet supply."
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
These ports handled 1.17 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 6% from November since holiday merchandise was already on the shelves but up 2% from December 2010 and brought 2011 to a close at 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010's 14.75 million TEU.
One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent January 2012 was estimated at 1.17 million TEU, down 3.3% from January 2011, and February, historically the slowest  month of the year, is forecast at 1.03 million TEU, down 6.8% from a year ago. Increases are expected to resume in March, forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 8.6% from last year. April is forecast at 1.25 million TEU, up 2.4%; May at 1.28 million TEU, down 0.7%; and June at 1.28 million, up 3%. The first half of 2012 should total 7.18 million TEU, up 0.5% from the same period last year.

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