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Retail Imports Remain at Near-Record Levels Despite Tariffs

Source: National Retail Federation Press Release, August 8, 2019

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to continue at near-record levels this month and the remainder of the year despite a new round of tariffs on goods from China, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.8 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2.9 percent from May and down 3 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.86 million TEU, down 2.6 percent year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 0.6 percent; September at 1.85 million, down 1.1 percent; October at 1.91 million TEU, down 6.2 percent; November at 1.84 million TEU, up 1.8 percent, and December at 1.81 million TEU, down 7.9 percent.

The August and October numbers would be the highest monthly volumes since 1.96 million TEU last December, tying for the third-highest month on record behind that and the all-time record of 2 billion TEU set last October. While imports will decline year-over-year most months during the remainder of this year, that is largely because of high volumes seen last year as retailers rushed to bring in merchandise ahead of scheduled tariff increases.

The first half of 2019 totaled 10.5 million TEU, up 2.1 percent over the first half of 2018, and 2019 is expected to total 21.7 million TEU. That would come within 0.4 percent of last year’s record 21.8 million TEU, which was up an unusually high 6.2 percent over 2017.

Click here to access the National Retail Federation website for the entire release, including comments from NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, Jonathan Gold, and Hackett Associates Founder, Ben Hackett.