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NRF: Back-to-school will impact supply chain


The advent of the back-to-school shopping season is expected to affect import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, import cargo volume will see a small, but significant, increase in July due to retailers stocking up for back-to-school shoppers. A larger wave of imports is expected to pass through U.S. ports in later summer and early fall as retailers prepare for the end-of-year holiday season.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.63 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in May 2016, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 12.8% from April 2016 and 1.1% from May 2015. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

June was estimated at 1.56 million TEU, down 0.5% from the same month the previous year. July is forecast at 1.64 million TEU, up 1.4% from the prior year; August at 1.65 million TEU, down 2%; September at 1.58 million TEU, down 2.6%; October at 1.62 million TEU, up 4.4%; and November at 1.52 million TEU, up 2.8%. Even though volume will be lower than the same month in 2015, August is expected to be the peak shipping month of the year.

“Back-to-school and the holidays are the two biggest shopping seasons of the year for retailers and these numbers reflect that,” said NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “After a year of difficult comparisons in the wake of the West Coast ports slowdown, we’re finally starting to see normal trends. Some numbers are still down from last year, but the pattern of building up toward the big seasons has returned.”

The first half of 2016 is expected to total 8.99 million TEU, up 1.5% from the same period in 2015. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4% from 2014.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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