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US National Retail Federation sees coronavirus as game changer

THE impact of the coronavirus on US retail supply chains may be larger than previously expected, as disruptions to transportation are likely to affect imports in March and April, says the National Retail Federation (NRF)

18 March 2020 - 19:00

THE impact of the coronavirus on US retail supply chains may be larger than previously expected, as disruptions to transportation are likely to affect imports in March and April, says the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The NRF was already predicting a sharp drop in imports of goods from mainland China due to factory shutdowns and travel restrictions. However, as the virus spreads, shipments will likely fall even more heavily, reports New York's Rapaport News,



'There are still a lot of unknowns to fully determine the impact of the coronavirus on the supply chain,' said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold. 'As factories in China continue to come back online, products are now flowing again. But there are still issues affecting cargo movement, including the availability of truck drivers to move cargo to Chinese ports.'



Imports at big American container ports are estimated to reach 1.32 million TEU in March, down 18 per cent from the previous year. Before the virus outbreak, NRF's Global Port Tracker had predicted March imports would reach 1.7 million TEU. It then adjusted this figure to 1.46 million TEU last month as the virus emerged.



April imports, which were not previously expected to be affected by the pandemic, are now forecast at 1.68 million TEU, down 3.5 per cent from last year, and from the 1.82 million TEU the NRF predicted last month.



'Now that we are in the coronavirus environment, uncertainty has expanded exponentially,' noted Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which advises the NRF on Global Port Tracker. 'Our projections are based on the optimistic view that by the end of March or early April, some sort of normalcy will have returned to trade.'



NRF forecasted May imports would increase nine per cent year on year to 2.02 million TEU, while June shipments are expected to grow 10 per cent to 1.97 million TEU. Those numbers assume that Chinese factories will have resumed most of their production by that time and will be trying to make up for lower volumes earlier in the year.



Meanwhile, 40 per cent of NRF members said they had experienced disruptions in their supply chains from the virus, according to a study by the group, while another 26 respondents expected to see disruptions as the situation continued.


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