Strong imports fuel forecast for record retail sales

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Continued surge in retail imports fuels record sales outlook for the holiday season (Long Beach Port file photo)

Posted on Nov 9, 2021 5:38 PM by

The maritime executive

Despite numerous reports suggesting holiday retail sales could be hampered by backlogs and congestion in the global supply chain, the National Retail Federation reports that with retail imports expected to stay low. From near record highs, US retailers have the potential to break previous sales records. The retail organization says that even though container import levels are down from a year ago, they remain strong and are on track for an expected overall increase of 18% in 2021.

“There is tremendous momentum heading into the holiday shopping season,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Consumers are in a very favorable position at the start of the final months of the year as incomes rise and household balance sheets have never been so strong. Retailers are investing heavily in their supply chains and spending heavily to ensure they have products on their shelves to meet this period of exceptional consumer demand. “

The traffic jams and disruption that started in 2020 have continued throughout the current ‘peak season’ for shipping NRF highlights when retailers are normally stocking up for the holidays. They report, however, that many retailers anticipated the challenge and started importing holiday items months ahead of schedule to ensure sufficient stock would be available.

Despite a year-over-year decline in retail imports as measured by container volume, the NRF notes that October was still among the five busiest months since the trade group began tracking imports in 2002. The year-over-year decline, which is expected to be just over 1% in TEUs arriving in October, would be the first since July 2020, after which unusually high import volumes began to arrive when stores closed by the pandemic have reopened and retailers have been working to meet pent-up consumer demand and to refuel for the holidays.

US ports covered by the NRF Global Port Tracker continue to have retail import volumes of between 2.14 and 2.19 million TEUs each month. Busy freight is expected to continue through the end of the year, with a November forecast of 2.17 million TEU, up 3.3% year-over-year, and 2, 18 million TEUs in December, up 3.5%.

“Dockers unload ships as fast as they can, but the challenge is getting the containers out of the ports to make room for the next ship,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for the chain. procurement and customs policy. “Retailers have enough inventory on hand to make sure shoppers don’t go home empty-handed this holiday season. But there are still items on the docks or waiting on ships due to hit the shelves and warehouses of online sellers.

The National Retail Federation predicts that November and December holiday sales will increase 8.5-10.5 percent from 2020 to $ 843.4 billion to $ 859 billion. This compares to a previous high of 8.2% in 2020 to $ 777.3 billion and an average increase of 4.4% over the past five years. This year’s forecast includes an expected 11-15% increase in both online and non-store sales.

For the year as a whole, the Global Port Tracker predicts that retail imports will have jumped 18% to a total of 26 million TEUs arriving at the largest container ports in the United States. The NRF also expects momentum to continue into 2022 with volume increases of seven percent slated for January and February. TEU volume is forecast to be over two million per month for the first quarter of 2022, although March 2022 is also expected to be down 4% from the previous year.


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