IMPORT SURGE CONTINUING
The National Retail Federation also expects the retail importsurge that began in the summer of 2020 will continue throughthis summer as retailers work to meet increased consumerdemand. (Keep in minds that NRF’s numbers do not includeautomobiles and restaurants.)
“We’ve never seen imports at this high a level for such anextended period of time,” comments Jonathan Gold, NRF’s
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The researchers also assert that the future successof North American ports will be measured by theirability to deal with changes in consumer spendingtrends and operational issues that ports in other partsof the world continue to struggle with.
For example, will American consumers revertlater this year to their pre-pandemic emphasis onspending disposable income on “experiences versusthings”? Household spending on travel, live entertainment and restaurants have plummeted sinceearly 2020. The share of U.S. consumption spenton all services fell by 7% while purchases of goodsgrew a healthy 7% from the fourth quarter 2019 tothe fourth quarter 2020.
The company also said that continuing serviceissues and port congestion could have a bigger impact the longer they last, although most, like theproblems at the Panama and Suez Canals, are believed to betemporary.
“The question is, how rapidly will port congestion fade
away?” C&W said. “In past crises, such as the West Coast dock
strike in 2014-15, problems subsided quickly once a solution
was reached. In the current case, a return to normal will largely
depend on when import volume growth moderates.”
vice president for supply chain and customs poli-
cy. “Records have been broken multiple times and
near-record numbers are happening almost every
month. Between federal stimulus checks and mon-
ey saved by staying home for the better part of a
year, consumers have money in their pockets and
they’re spending it with retailers as fast as retailers
can stock their shelves.”
Under the current forecast, retail import volume
is expected to remain at or above the two million
TEU mark for 11 out of 13 months by this August.
Before 2020, monthly imports had reached two
million TEU only one time: in October 2018.
April is forecast at 1.99 million TEUs, up 23.4%
year-over-year; May at 2 million TEUs, up 30.6%;
June at 2.01 million TEUs, up 24.9%; July at 2.04
million TEUs, up 6.5%, and August at 2.08 millionTEUs, down 1.2%. If the August projection holds, it would bethe first year-over-year decline since last July.
The import surge that began last year resulted in months ofbackups at ports, which have faced labor shortages becauseof COVID- 19 infections and equipment shortages because ofthe high volume.
“Congestion at U.S. ports is abating as container carriers andterminals adjust to the new normal,” says Ben Hackett, founder
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