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NRF: Imports threatened by growing trade war

BY Marianne Wilson

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are on the rise — at least for now.

Imports at the ports are expected to grow a healthy 5.8% year-over-year this month. But they could be threatened if the developing trade war the United States and China continues to escalate, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Tariffs are a tax on American consumers in the form of higher prices but they are also a tax on American jobs,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “If tariffs ultimately lead to a reduction in imports and exports, that will put dockworkers and countless others in the supply chain out of work. American consumers and workers should not be punished for China’s wrongdoing.”

Added Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett: “There is nothing good about a trade war. It is a vicious circle of retaliation where there are no winners, only losers.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.69 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 4.1% from January, but up 15% from a year ago. (The year-over-year number is skewed because of fluctuations in when Lunar New Year factory shutdowns occur in Asia each year.) A TEU is one 20-ft.-long cargo container or its equivalent.

March was estimated at 1.54 million TEU, down 1.2% year-over-year. April is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.8% from last year.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.6% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6% from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

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, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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Best Buy is latest retailer caught up in data breach

BY Marianne Wilson

Yet another retailer — the fourth in seven days — is involved in a cyberattack.

Best Buy has issued a warning that some of its customers’ payment information may have been compromised in a data cyberattack on the third-party operator of its chat services, a company called (24)7.ai. The breach occurred between Sept. 27 and Oct. 12, 2017.

“As best we can tell, only a small fraction of our overall online customer population could have been caught up in this [24]7.ai incident, whether or not they used the chat function,” Best Buy stated.

The retailer said it would contact any affected customers directly, and that customers would not be liable for fraudulent charges that resulted from the attack. Additionally, it will offer free credit monitoring services if needed.

On April 4, Delta Airlines and Sears Holdings said that some of their customer payment data may have been compromised in a cyberattack on the same provider, (24)7.ai. Sears said the incident led to unauthorized access to the credit card information of under 100,000 of its customers. On April 3, news broke that Panera Bread’s website leaked customer records for at least eight months.

On April 2, department store giant Hudson’s Bay Co, said it had become aware of “a data security issue involving customer payment card data” at select Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th, and Lord & Taylor stores in North America.

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Retail group to White House: ‘Stop playing chicken with the economy’

BY Marianne Wilson

The news that President Trump instructed the United States Trade Representative to consider an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports is raising alarm among retailers.

The proposed new tariffs follow the $50 billion in tariffs on China that the Trump Administration has already announced.

“This is what a trade war looks like, and what we have warned against from the start,” said Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation. “We are on a dangerous downward spiral and American families will be on the losing end. To be clear, we agree it’s time to address China’s unfair trade practices, but an additional $100 billion in tariffs amount to $100 billion in taxes on the American people.”

Shay said that that the “tit-for-tat trade actions” could spell disaster for the U.S. economy and make it harder for Americans across the country to afford everyday products.

“It is inevitable that China will respond with more retaliatory actions that cause even further harm to American farmers, businesses and consumers,” he said. “We urge the administration to change course and stop playing a game of chicken with the nation’s economy.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association also made its clear objections to the proposed new tariffs. Hun Quach, VP of international trade for RILA, said tripling that figure to $150 billion would expose every American family to higher bills.

“Tariffs on over $150 billion of imports will have an impact on the budgets of every American family,” Quach said. “If the Administration follows through on this threat, American families should prepare to pay more for summer clothes, shoes, back to school gear, home décor, holiday shopping — this will hit every season and every category. Tariffs of this magnitude will not only negate any increase from tax reform in worker’s paychecks, but the combination of new taxes on consumers and retaliatory taxes on American exports has the potential to both depress consumer spending and slow down the economy.”

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