SUPPLY CHAIN

Cargo volumes rebounding in December despite port strikes

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates found that cargo volumes at U.S. ports are forecast to increase 3.9% in December following a 5.6% decline in November.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report, container volumes were negatively impacted in November by the West coast strike by workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but resolution of the strike after eight days meant disruption in December was limited to just two days.

"After a strong kickoff on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is looking good and these numbers reflect that," said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy. "Nonetheless, we narrowly avoided what could have been a long-term disruption with the strike in Los Angeles and Long Beach and don’t want to run that risk on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. NRF is continuing to urge labor, management and lawmakers to do whatever is necessary to keep our nation’s ports running smoothly," he said in reference to the possible disruptions at East coast ports if agreements aren’t reached with organized labor prior to the Dec. 29 expiration of a contract extension.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.22 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent units (TEU) in November, down from 1.39 TEUs in October. A TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. The November figures were 5.6% below the same month the prior year, but the December forecast for 1.27 million TEUs will see traffic rebound 3.9%.

Looking ahead, forecasted volume of 1.31 TEUs in January would represent a 2% increase followed by February at 1.15 million TEUs, up 5.9%, March at 1.27 million TEUs, up 2%, and April at 1.35 million TEUs, up 3.2%.

However, those forecasts could be in jeopardy if labor agreements are not reached due to differences with the situation that occurred on the West coast.

“While the strike led to some diversion of cargo to Oakland and ports further afield, we believe much of the cargo destined for LA/Long Beach will simply arrive at the port later as vessels adjust their rotations,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. “As we look ahead into the coming months of 2013, the main threat to cargo flows through the ports would be a strike on East Coast and Gulf Coast. There is little option for diversion.”

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OPERATIONS

Tracking report: U.K. holiday shopping accelerates

BY Katherine Boccaccio

London — An increasing number of U.K. consumers are spending more time at the nation’s shopping centers, according to a newly launched weekly statistic released Wednesday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Path Intelligence.

This new statistic — known as the Path Index and illustrating that ICSC Research is broadening its shopping center tracking to Europe — melds shopping center footfall and the time spent per visitor into a shopper-hours index. For the week ending Dec. 9, 2012, the Path Index rose to its highest reading of the year so far, but was 5.1% below the same week of 2011.

According to ICSC president and CEO Michael P. Kercheval, the Index serves as an extremely timely window on shopping-center business performance. “The shopping center industry is leveraging more technology to better understand and quickly react to consumer needs,” Kercheval said.

The full historical data as well as weekly updates of the Path Index will be available to ICSC members at ICSC.org/research/edata.php.

The Path Index will be reported weekly on Wednesdays, according to the companies.

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OPERATIONS

PriceGrabber: Consumers to check off most shopping in December

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Los Angeles — Survey results released Wednesday by PriceGrabber found that with a record 247 million shoppers visiting stores and websites over the Thanksgiving weekend, there are still a significant number of December shoppers this year.

According to PriceGrabber.com’s winter holiday shopping survey, 78% of consumers are still in the market to complete their holiday shopping in December. More specifically, 45% stated that they are prepared to conduct most of their shopping this month; 33% took advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals in November but said they would conduct a majority of their shopping in December; and 22% indicated they will not shop for gifts this month.

When the consumers who indicated that they will do most of their shopping this month were asked to select all of the reasons why, 48% said they anticipate deep discounts in December; 28% indicated they procrastinate and wait until the last minute to shop; and 25% noted that holiday advertisements in December offer them great gift ideas.

Nineteen percent indicated they conduct most of their shopping in December because they like to take advantage of Free Shipping Day on Dec. 17 and another 19% said they are busy and only able to shop in December.

"Thanksgiving weekend was a huge win for retailers with strong sales, and our survey data shows that consumers are still planning to shop and spend money throughout December, which indicates a positive overall holiday shopping season," said Rojeh Avanesian, VP marketing and analytics of PriceGrabber.com.

According to PriceGrabber survey results, 59% of shoppers plan to take advantage of Free Shipping Day on Dec.17 to order online and have their gifts delivered in time for Christmas, and 48% plan to shop on Super Saturday, Dec. 22 to take advantage of one-day sales.

When PriceGrabber survey respondents were asked if they plan to inspect merchandise in a physical retail store and later purchase it online for less money this holiday season (called “showrooming”), 52% responded positively. When the respondents planning to "showroom" were asked to select all of the reasons why they planned to do so, 53% said because they like to touch and feel the product first and then find the best price online; 40% indicated they test the product to see if they like it and then go online to take advantage of free shipping deals and coupons; and 40% noted that they are trying to save money on holiday gifts this year and always search for the best price. Thirty-nine percent of shoppers indicated they like to browse first and buy later and 27% said they like to make side-by-side comparisons before making gift decisions.

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