Port Tracker: Shipments of retail goods weak
Traffic at the major U.S. ports handling retail goods dropped below last year’s levels late this summer, and peak monthly volume for 2007 is now expected to fall slightly below last year’s peak, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released Friday by the National Retail Federation and economic forecasting firm Global Insight.
“These figures reflect the weakened U.S. economy and retailers’ cautious outlook for this year’s holiday season compared with last year,” said Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham. “A slower economy means fewer imports, and that means fewer containers coming through the ports. The good news is that lower volume means the ports are free of congestion and that the goods coming in should move smoothly all the way from ship to shore to store.”
“Retailers have a good sense of the economy, and are planning their inventories carefully,” Erik Autor, vice president and international trade counsel for the NRF. “The lower volume of containers means merchants shouldn’t be left with unsold goods or forced into unplanned markdowns.”
Port Tracker said the major container ports it surveys handled 1.46 million TEUs in August, 1.4 percent fewer boxes than in August 2006. In September, the same ports are estimated to have handled 1.46 million TEU, down 1.9 percent from September 2006.
In October, the ports are expected to handle 1.51 million TEU, just 3,300 TEU short of October 2006.
All U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker — Los Angeles-Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Houston — are all rated “low” for congestion, the same as last month.