Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NRF: National Retail Cargo Volumes Up 15% in 2010, Peak Month May Have Been July

Import cargo volumes at the nation's major retail container ports, which suffered through historic downturns last year, are expected to increase by 15 percent in 2010, according to a National Retail Federation report released Thursday.

“We aren’t back to where we were two years ago and consumers aren’t convinced that the recession is over quite yet, but 2010 is clearly going to finish better than last year,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in the trade group's monthly Global Port Tracker report. “In the meantime, retailers are monitoring demand very closely and hoping to see increases in employment and other areas that will boost consumer confidence. Cargo numbers this summer are showing unusually high percentage increases, but that appears to be an indication of shortages in shipping capacity earlier in the year rather than sales expectations.”

Compiled in conjunction with consulting and research firm Hackett Associates, the NRF monthly report also predicted that based on summer container volumes the traditional September/October peak shipping season could already be in full swing several months early.

“There are indications that the shipping season may have peaked earlier than normal as the rush to re-stock inventories earlier in the year intersects with a combination of increased shipping capacity, consumer confidence levels not seen since August 2009 and the slowing growth of consumer spending,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “The traditional peak season may be melting away.”

The large double-digit increases in June and July, said the report, appear to be the result of backlogs built up due to the lack of shipping capacity earlier in the year after ship owners took vessels out of service during the recession and were slow to return them as the economy began to pick up. With many retailers appearing to bring merchandise in early to avoid any further bottlenecks, July is likely to be the peak shipping month for 2010 rather than the traditional rush of holiday season merchandise in October.

The Global Port Tracker monthly report 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 and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.