Retail imports up 6.5% in October

Washington, D.C. -- Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports grew 6.5% in October over the same month last year despite the government shutdown, and year-over-year increases are expected to continue for the remainder of the year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers place their orders for merchandise months ahead of time, so cargo arriving at the ports in October and for most of the rest of the year was ordered long before anybody ever heard of a shutdown,” VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “The question at this point isn’t how much merchandise arrived but how much consumers bought, and how they are going to react as economic talks continue in Washington. Lawmakers need to take steps that build confidence, not continue the uncertainty.”

While some government workers involved with clearing cargo were furloughed during the 16-day shutdown, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors remained on the job and no major disruptions of cargo handling were reported. The cargo numbers come as NRF is predicting that this year’s holiday sales will grow 3.9% over last year to a total of $602.1 billion.

Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with sales because they count only the number of cargo containers, not the value of the merchandise inside them. August, September and October are the months when most of the holiday season’s merchandise is brought into the country. The 4.35 million cargo containers handled during those months combined represent a 4.3% increase over last year and account for 26.8% of all retail imports for the entire year.