August Retail Import Volume Projected for Record

Retail Container ImportsWASHINGTON-Import volume at the major U.S. container posts is expected to hit an all-time record this month, as retailers attempt to rush through merchandise for the holiday season in fear of an impasse in the contract talks between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The most recent contract expired on July 1. Talks between the two sides have continued, and dockworkers have remained on the job. “The negotiations appear to be going well, but each week that goes by makes the situation more critical as the holiday season approaches,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation.

According to the monthly Global Tracker Report from NRF and Hackett Associates, import volume in August is expected to reach 1.54 million containers, the highest monthly volume since NRF began tracking import volume in 2000. If volume hits that forecast, it would represent a 3.6 percent increase over August of last year.

In June, the most recent month with available data, the ports’ volume rose 9.1 percent over June 2013.  July’s volume is projected for a 5.8 percent year-over-year gain. The increase for September is forecast at 2.8 percent, while October’s volume is projected to be 3.3 percent higher than October of last year.

The volume for November is expected to rise 2 percent. December’s volume is projected for a 2.1 percent increase.

According to Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, the volume gains reflect both the concerns about the labor situation and the accelerating economy. “U.S. (gross domestic product) has increased in 11 out of the last 12 quarters,” Hackett said, “confirming that we are in a sustained period of expansion.”