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Retail Group Expects Imports to Rise

Mar 10 2016

The National Retail Federation expects imports in the first half of the year to be slightly lower than in 2015, but said volume would likely grow again in the second half.


According to its monthly Global Port Tracker report, released Tuesday, ports handled an estimated 1.4 million twenty-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs, in February. NRF expects this number to decrease to 1.35 million containers in March, then increase to 1.61 million containers in July, in line with the typical inventory buildup leading to the summer.


In total, NRF expects volume to decrease 0.2% to 8.8 million TEUs in the first half compared to the same period a year earlier.

Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said comparisons of the first half of this year to last year are complicated by West Coast port delays early last year due to labor strife, and the subsequent rush of goods when work returned to normal.


The skewed numbers “should clear up in the second half of the year,” he said in a statement. “On a monthly basis, imports are building normally as the back-to-school season approaches.”


Other signs point to a pickup in shipping volumes in the U.S. Trucking carrier Saia Inc. said Tuesday that its average daily shipment count slipped in January, but grew 1.4% in February from a year earlier. Another large carrier, Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., said last week that it saw strong shipping demand at the start of the year, with the number of shipments carried per day increasing over 6% in January and February compared to the same months a year earlier.


An NRF spokesman said the industry group expects retail sales for the full year to increase 3.1%, and that inventory levels are “still on the high side but some things are seasonal and will still need to be brought in.”

By Wall Street Journal | March 8, 2016 | Loretta Chao
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