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US retail import volumes are expected to return to traditional seasonal patterns

DESPITE the flux and trepidation caused by the uncertainties surrounding the US-China trade war, the dust is starting to settle over retail imports with the nation's top container ports likely to see a return to typical seasonal patterns in the first few months of the year

15 January 2020 - 19:00

DESPITE the flux and trepidation caused by the uncertainties surrounding the US-China trade war, the dust is starting to settle over retail imports with the nation's top container ports likely to see a return to typical seasonal patterns in the first few months of the year.

'We'll be more confident after we see the Phase One agreement signed, but right now 2020 looks like it should be back to what used to be normal,' said National Retail Federation vice president Jonathan Gold, reported Home Textile Today, Greensboro, North Carolina, US.



'We've been through a cycle of imports surging ahead of expected tariff increases - some of which got delayed, reduced or cancelled - and falling off again afterwards. That's not good for retailers trying to manage their inventory levels or trying to make long-term business plans. And tariffs are never good for consumers, businesses or the economy.'



Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the US ports of: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville, and Houston on the Gulf coast.



Together, they handled 1.67 million TEU in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 11.2 per cent from October and down 7.5 year on year.



With on-again, off-again progress on trade negotiations reported throughout autumn and other factors affecting shipping, an expected spike ahead of the cancelled December tariff increase did not emerge.



December was estimated at 1.7 million TEU, down 13.4 per cent from unusually high numbers seen in December 2018, when retailers had front-loaded imports ahead of a scheduled January 1 2019 tariff increase that was ultimately postponed.



While numbers for the full year are not yet final, estimates indicate that 2019 came in at 21.6 million TEU, down 0.9 per cent from 2018.


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