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Retail imports to increase 5.9% in November despite superstorm


Washington, D.C. -- A report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said that import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 5.9% in November despite the temporary closure of some ports by superstorm Sandy.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report, U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.42 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was the same as August but up 3.3% from September 2011. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

“Sandy certainly caused major problems that are still being cleaned up, but retailers managed to get their cargo into the country and will have plenty of merchandise on store shelves for the holidays,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “While there was clearly a regional impact, at this point the storm is not expected to have a major effect on holiday sales numbers.”

October was estimated at 1.46 million TEU, up 10.7% from last year, with November forecast at 1.37 million TEU, up 5.9%, and December forecast at 1.34 million TEU, up 9.4%. January is forecast at 1.39 million TEU, up 8.2% from January 2012; February at 1.22 million TEU, up 12%; and March at 1.26 million TEU, up 1.6%.

August, September and October are the three busiest months of the year as retailers bring merchandise into the country for the holiday season, and volume for the three months combined was up 5.8% at 4.3 million TEU. While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.

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