"Retailers are continuing to watch rising gas prices, but job gains and other indicators show the economy is strengthening," says NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "All of this should improve consumer confidence and lead to increased spending, so retailers are cautiously building up their inventories."
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.04 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. With February traditionally the slowest month of the year, that was down 16% from January and 5.7% from February 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
March was estimated at 1.19 million TEU, up 9.6% from a year ago, and April is forecast at 1.25 million TEU, up 3.2% from last year. The first half of 2012 should total 7.3 million TEU, up 2.2% from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010's 14.75 million TEU.
NRF continues to project 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.
"Our forecast for the remainder of the year has brought us back to the traditional peak season patterns," says Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates founder. "Hopefully the importers and the carriers can work closely together to ensure sufficient capacity and a solid supply chain."
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.