Retail import volume hits lowest level in seven years
Washington, D.C. Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports hit its lowest level in seven years in February as the number of containers dropped below the 1 million mark for the first time in half a decade, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.
Numbers began climbing again in March and April, but the 1 million mark won’t be seen again before May, and imports will continue to see significant declines, compared with last year, at least through the summer.
U.S. ports surveyed handled only 847,832 twenty-ft. equivalent units in February, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 20.6% from January’s 1.07 million TEU and 31.3% from February 2008’s 1.23 million TEU. One TEU is one 20-ft. container or its equivalent.
The number for February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, was the lowest since 818,342 TEU in March 2002. It was also the first time the total has fallen below the 1 million mark since February 2004, when ports in the survey handled 901,497 TEU, and marked the 20th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline.
Volume for March was estimated at 930,142 TEU, down 19.7% from a year earlier, and April is forecast at 987,371 TEU, down 22%. The numbers are expected to rise above the 1 million mark again in May, but will nonetheless remain well below last year’s levels.
Hallmark sends a sympathy card
The nation’s leading greeting card company on Tuesday said it planned to cut up to 8% of its U.S. work force by laying off between 550 and 750 of its 9,200 full-time employees in the U.S.
The job cuts at the privately held company are expected to take place over the next six months and will involve 200 to 250 jobs at the company’s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. Other cuts are expected to occur at six manufacturing and distribution facilities where between 350 and 450 jobs will be cut. Hallmark’s sales last year declined 2$ to $4.3 billion.
BJ’s expands payment options
NATICK, Mass. BJ’s Wholesale Club announced it is expanding payment options to its members by accepting government-issued food stamp benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payments. BJ’s now accepts EBT payments at all 180 Club locations throughout its 15-state footprint.
“The Food Stamp program makes a difference in the lives of millions of Americans across the country, and the benefits they receive positively impact their abilities to feed their families consistently healthy meals,” said Laura Sen, president and CEO, BJ’s Wholesale Club. “BJ’s recognizes the diverse financial status and changing needs of its members. We are proud to help members stretch their food budgets by offering savings on a large selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods, along with name-brand, non-perishable staples.”