Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 4.8% in June compared with the same month last year, and year-over-year increases are expected to continue into the holiday season shipping cycle,
according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"Retail sales have seen 22 straight months of year-over-year sales increases, and these import projections suggest retailers should see growth into the two-year mark and beyond," says Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "Cargo numbers don't correlate directly into sales numbers, but they are an indicator of how much retailers think they can sell."

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.23 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 3.9% from March and 1.5% from April 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.29 million TEU, up 0.5% from a year ago, and June is forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 4.8% from the same time last year. July is forecast at 1.36 million TEU, up 2.5%; August at 1.42 million TEU, up 7.3%; September at 1.45 million TEU, up 9% and October at 1.53 million TEU, up 19.9% over unusually low numbers last year.

The first half of 2012 should total 7.3 million TEU, up 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 projects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.

"Consumer demand for durables has been weak for quite some time and dropped further in May, yet at the same time consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2007," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett says. "Confused? So is the average consumer."

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.