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Retail container traffic to rise 8% in January

Washington, D.C. -- Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 8% in January over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by NRF and Hackett Associates.

“While the economy clearly began to recover in 2010 and drove up cargo volume as retail sales improved, maintaining that momentum in 2011 could be difficult,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “Consumers faced with continued high unemployment are expected to focus more on necessities than discretionary spending. Retailers will continue to carefully gauge consumer demand and adjust import levels accordingly.”

U.S. ports handled 1.23 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 1.6% from October as stocking up for the holiday season wound down, but up 13% from November 2009. It was the twelfth month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

December was estimated at 1.16 million TEU, a 7% increase over December 2009. January is forecast to stay at that level, but the figure will represent an 8% increase over January 2010. February is forecast at 1.14, up 13% from a year earlier.

“Our projections for 2011 remain firm, albeit not at the levels of the recovery rates of last year,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Growth in the upper single-digit levels can be expected, particularly on the West Coast.”

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.

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