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Retailers remain cautious on merchandise imports

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 1.1% in June over the same month last year, reflecting modest growth expectations as retailers head toward the back-to-school and holiday seasons, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.



“With the economic recovery moving slowly, retailers are being cautious this summer and could hold off on stocking up for the holiday season until fall,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “We aren’t expecting significant increases for imports until October, when retailers will have a better idea of what to expect for holiday demand.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.31 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 14.6% from an unusually slow March but down 0.1% from April 2012. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.4 million TEU, up 2.2% from a year ago. June is forecast at 1.4 million TEU, up 1.1% from last year; July at 1.44 million TEU, up 1.9%; August at 1.43 million TEU, up 0.5%; September at 1.42 million TEU, up 0.8%; and October at 1.45 million TEU, up 7.9%.

The first six months of 2013 are expected to total 7.8 million TEU, up 1.9% from the first half of 2012. The total for 2012 was 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9% from 2011.


“We are witnessing a period of import trade growth that is running more or less in sync with the U.S. economic expansion. Unfortunately, both are anemic,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “The impact of this extremely cautious consumer spending is that we expect import consumption to remain weak for the coming four to six months.”

Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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Former Talbots exec heads to the Wet Seal

BY CSA STAFF

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. — The Wet Seal has appointed retail veteran Lesli Gilbert to the position of EVP, stores and operations. She replaces Barbara Cook, who resigned as the company’s SVP of store operations in February.

“We are pleased to welcome Lesli and believe she is an ideal fit with Wet Seal’s business, brand positioning and organizational culture," said CEO John Goodman. "Lesli will take responsibility for leading our field organization and store teams, inspiring the vision and values of our Wet Seal and Arden B brands in stores and driving consistent execution. We look forward to her contributions as we continue to pursue our fast fashion strategies and position the business to achieve consistent, long-term growth.”

Most recently, Gilbert was SVP of stores at the Talbots, Inc., where she was responsible for developing the stores strategy and framework to reposition the business. Prior to Talbots, she held various general management positions with responsibility for leading sales, marketing, training and customer service with T-Mobile US and Gap. Earlier in her career, she held regional and district sales manager positions with Charlotte Russe, Discovery Channel, Sunglass Hut International and the Limited.

The Wet Seal operates 526 stores in 47 states and Puerto Rico, including 464 Wet Seal stores and 62 Arden B stores.

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Retail Goes South

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Hordes of spend-happy young Mexican shoppers are successfully attracting specialty apparel retailers from the U.S. and Europe – and, as mentioned in a recent report by Wall Street Journal, Walmart is feeling the pain.

Spanish teen retailer Zara has the biggest foothold in Mexico, with 246 stores, and the success of the Inditex-owned chain (plus relaxed tariffs on imported apparel) has prompted U.S. fashion stalwarts Gap, American Eagle Outfitters and Forever 21 – along with Swedish counterpart H&M – to jump on the south-of-the-border bandwagon. Just since last September, the four have opened stand-alone stores in Mexico, providing clothing options for the country’s younger, hipper shoppers – and chipping away at Wal-Mart de Mexico’s slipping sales results.

While Mexico’s retail landscape has plenty of obstacles – knock-offs and stolen goods are big business in the country, and will surely erode outsiders’ sales potential – it’s clear that Mexico is now a priority at least among the youth-oriented chains. AEO chief Robert Hanson told WSJ that his chain’s Mexican sales could top the $300 million it does in Canada. “You have to go where the opportunity is,” he told the paper.


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