Retailer container traffic to see uptick in July

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.6% in July compared with the same month last year, and modest year-over-year increases are expected through the holiday season shipping cycle, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Whether consumers are going to have the confidence to spend during the next few months depends on what happens with employment, but retailers are being cautiously optimistic,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP supply chain and customs policy. “Sales can fluctuate from month to month, but these import numbers show that retailers are still expecting this year to be better than last year.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.34 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.1% from April and 2.3% from May 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

June remained at an estimated 1.34 million TEU, the same as May but up 4.7% from June 2011. July is forecast at 1.38 million TEU, up 1.6% from last year; August at 1.44 million TEU, up 6.2%; September at 1.45 million TEU, up 6.8%; October at 1.47 million TEU, up 12.6% over lower-than-usual numbers last year; and November at 1.3 million TEU, up 2%.

The first half of 2012 totaled an estimated 7.5 million TEU, up 2.6% from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 15.1 million TEU, up 0.6% from 2010. NRF projects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.

Numbers in this month’s report reflect the addition of Miami to the list of ports covered.

“Economists and commentators are talking the economy down,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Despite the mixed signals, we remain optimistic that consumers will remain in the market.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.