Retail imports to increase 3.9% in December despite port strike
Washington — Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 3.9% in December despite a strike that closed the nation’s largest port complex for the first few days of the month, but retailers are keeping a close watch on a possible strike on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“After a strong kickoff on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is looking good and these numbers reflect that,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “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.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.39 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1% from September, but up 5.2% from October 2011. (One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.)
November was estimated at 1.22 million TEU, down 5.6% from last year. The downturn was due in part to the eight-day strike that closed most terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning in the last few days of November, but also because November is a traditionally weak month after most holiday cargo has arrived. December is forecast at 1.27 million TEU, up 3.9% from last year, with January forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 2% from January 2012.
Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said the LA/Long Beach strike shifted some cargo into December but would not have a significant effect on net volume for the year. But retailers are closely monitoring the situation at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, where a contract extension expires Dec. 29.
“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,” Hackett said. “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.”
Online sales keep setting records, more to come
Online sales are up 13% so far this holiday season and approaching a record $27 billion, according to the latest tally from the digital measurement firm comScore.
From November 1 through December 7, comScore puts total online spending at $26.8 billion, up 13% from $23.7 billion during the comparable period last year. Last week saw spending on December, 3, 4 and 5 each surpass $1 billion, according to the firm. That brings the number of billion spending days to seven. The highest volume day so far was Cyber Monday when sales hit nearly $1.5 billion.
"Despite posting three consecutive billion-dollar spending days and five in excess of $950 million, this past week saw a noticeable softening in e-commerce momentum as growth rates dipped into single-digits after beginning the season in the mid-teens," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "However, we expect this lull to be a temporary effect having more to do with the extended shopping calendar this year with two additional shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, rather than weakening consumer fundamentals. This upcoming week led by Green Monday is likely to be the heaviest online spending week in history with a realistic chance of delivering five billion-dollar days."
According to the company, Green Monday got its moniker several years ago because of the widely held misconception at the time that Cyber Monday was the heaviest online shopping day of the season when in reality it was lucky to crack the top ten. Green Monday came to refer to that Monday near mid-December when online spending actually tended to peak as consumers hurried to finish their online shopping in time for shipments to arrive before Christmas.
"While we still see that steady build in spending continuing into mid-December, Cyber Monday’s intense promotional activity has vaulted it into the top spot in recent years while Green Monday has had to settle for a spot in the top three. Still, it should be a very active online shopping day that will post a strong total when all is said and done," Fulgoni said.
IDC: Top 10 Retail Tech Trends for 2013
Framingham, Mass. — The omnichannel retail experience figures prominently in IDC Retail Insights’ Top 10 Predictions for the Retail Industry 2013. A hallmark of IDC’s offering for three decades, the annual report provides IDC’s outlook on the IT market, across industries, in the coming year.
“The year 2013 will be a turning point in terms of industry momentum around delivering on the omnichannel promise,” said Robert Parker, group vice president, IDC Retail Insights. “This trend means we will be applying “new rules” to both the customer experience and supply chain execution. Technology will have a critical role."
Here are IDC Retail Insights’ Top 10 Predictions:
- Omnichannel retail maturity will move from foundation to convergence, and from precision to immersion;
- Retailers omnichannel objectives will require platform & architecture investments;
- Retailers pivot merchandising and marketing on customer analytics to drive revenue and profit; relevance and reciprocity being the watchwords;
- Retailers will invest in customer analytics, merchandising, and marketing technologies to curate commerce and contextualize communications;
- The time is right to break down marketing silos;
- Marketing processes and infrastructures will align with the omnichannel business;
- Retailers will remove barriers and instead encourage the “stop start shopper;
- The convergence of web-based customer experience touch points to unify the customer journey;
- Retailers will optimize omnichannel customer service and cost by enabling trustworthy, efficient and effective supply chains; and
- Retailers will invest in technologies that enable visibility, visualization and virtualization.