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Retail container traffic to be Up 16% in July, but big increases could be coming to end

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Washington Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 16% in July, compared with the same month a year ago. But the double-digit increases seen in recent months should taper off this fall as retailers cautiously manage their inventories, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“We are still seeing increases in imports, partly because last year’s volumes made for easy comparisons and partly because of real improvements in the economy and consumer spending,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “But retailers are being cautious as they look at numbers for employment, housing and the availability of credit.”

According to Gold, retailers will have to manage their inventories more carefully as the year progresses.

“We’re still going to see increases in container volume, but not as large as what we’ve seen so far,” he said. “As retailers head into the peak shipping season, they will also to need to address challenges they are currently facing with lack of vessel capacity and with labor and congestion issues at some of the ports.”

“The latest economic indicators are starting to look bleak, including consumer confidence, industrial production and employment numbers. “Sales will be slower in July and August; that much is certain. Inventories will rise, resulting in some sharp seasonal volume reductions,” said Ben Hackett, founder, Hackett Associates, which produces Global Port Tracker for NRF.

The report covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Hackett said some of the current surge in container volume reflects the fact that shipping companies have recently restored some of the services that were cut back during the recession of the past two years.

© 2014