Retail Imports Expected To Hit Record Levels In The Months Ahead

retail. Import, National Retail Federation

Have you noticed some bare spots on the shelves of your favorite retail store? While you’re not alone, things soon may change.

Imports at the nation’s largest retail container ports are expected to grow during the second half of the year, according to the Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation (NRF). 

U.S. ports in January saw a 13% increase year-over-year, making it the busiest January since the NRF started tracking imports in 2020. 

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“The supply chain slowdown we usually see after the holiday season never really happened this winter, and imports are already starting to grow again.,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy. “Consumers haven’t let the pandemic stop them from shopping, and retailers are making sure their customers can find what they want and find it safely.”

While import numbers for both February and March are forecast to be significantly higher than normal, year-over-year comparisons are difficult because of the pandemic, NRF officials said. February imports are projected to grow 24.4% over the same month in 2020 and March imports are forecast to jump 44.1% year-over-year.

Despite these robust, record-setting figures, importers and retailers will continue to see several challenges in the months ahead. 

The biggest is simply getting products through busy ports. The New York Times in a March 6 report said there were some two dozen container ships anchored off the coast of Southern California awaiting dockside space. The port of Long Beach is the busiest in the nation. 

Despite the economic downturn over the past 12 months as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Americans hunkered down at home have been shopping. The result has been a shortage of products across many categories, including kitchenware, along with the large steel containers used to ship products from China and elsewhere to the United States.

Lars Mikael Jensen, head of Global Ocean Network at A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, told the Times, “All the links to the supply chain are stretched. The ships, the trucks, the warehouses.”