US cargo volume to increase 3% this month

Cargo volume in major retail ports in the United States are expected to increase 3.3 percent this month, compared to the same time last year.

The increase is part of retailers' preparation for the holiday season, according to a monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"The holidays are almost here, and retailers are ready," said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy. "Merchants have been stocking up since summer, and there should be plenty on the shelves as consumers begin their holiday shopping."

The announcement comes just 24 hours after the NRF predicted that holiday sales in 2015 would grow 3.7 percent over 2014. The cargo volume serves as a barometer for the season, but does not directly correlate to sales since each container is equal regardless of the value of its content.

September had about 1.62 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU), up 2.1 percent from the same month in 2014. And October's forecast is around 1.61 million TEU, up 3.3 percent from 2014. For the final two months of the year, the NRF is predicting TEU to reach 1.49 million in November, up 7.2 percent from last year, and 1.42 million TEU in December, down 0.9 percent.

In total, TEU would reach 18.3 million in 2015, up 5.7 percent from 2014.

January 2016 is already predicted to have 1.44 million TEU, up a huge jump of 16.5 percent from the beginning of 2015, which was negatively impacted by West Coast dockworker contract disputes. Inventory-to-sales ratio still remains high because of the influx of cargo that came through after the dispute ended.

"We would have thought that by now the aftermath of the disruption at the West Coast ports had worked its way through, which would help to reduce inventory," said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. "This is not the case."

Over the summer, the NRF lowered its annual sales forecast to a 3.5 percent rise, down from its original February predication that sales would grow 4.1 percent, due in some part to the strike among dockworkers.

For more:
-See this NRF press release

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