Retail Imports Expected to Hit Record Numbers this Summer Despite Tariff Threat

cosco shipping at port of long beach
Photo credit: Port of Long Beach

Imports at the United States’ major retail container ports are expected to set record numbers this summer and fall even as the debate over trade and tariffs continues in Washington, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

According to the, ports covered handled 1.63 million TEU in April, down 5.8 percent from March and up 0.3 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.77 million TEU, up 1.3 percent year-over-year, however after-the-fact numbers are not yet in.

June is forecast at 1.78 million TEU, up 3.7 percent; July at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.1 percent; August at 1.91 million TEU, up 4 percent; September at 1.83 million TEU, up 2.3 percent; and October at 1.9 million, up 5.7 percent.

The numbers forecast for July, August and October would each beat the previous record of 1.83 million TEU imported during a single month, which was set in August 2017.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.2 million TEU, an increase of 3.8 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6 percent from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

The Global Port Tracker report is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates. It 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.

“Consumers are buying more and that means retailers are importing more,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Imports continue to be the primary source of high-quality, mass-produced necessities at affordable prices and will be for the foreseeable future. If tariffs are imposed on consumer goods, that will only drive up prices for American families while doing little or nothing to punish those responsible for unfair trade practices.”

“Despite an environment where the U.S. administration is enacting measures that could well lead to a trade war with most of its Asian and European trading partners, we see imports continuing to grow,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said, noting that manufacturers have seen increased orders that reflect solid consumer demand. “This suggests that neither industry nor consumers really believe that President Trump will push through with his proposed tariffs. Let’s hope that they are right.”