Retail Container Traffic Is Falling...
Traffic at U.S. ports that handle most of the nation's retail traffic fell below last year's levels for the fourth month in a row in November, estimates the National Retail Federation and the economic consulting firm Global Insight.
They produce the monthly "Port Tracker" report, and attribute the decrease to careful management of inventories by retailers in anticipation of a restrained holiday shopping season.
"The slow pace of container traffic growth is forecast to continue due to weakness in the U.S. economy," said Paul Bingham, Global Insight economist. "All covered U.S. ports are operating without congestion from the harbors to the gates and are rated low for congestion through spring."
"Retailers are carefully managing their inventories so that they won't be forced into unplanned discounts," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "Matching supply to demand is a basic principle of sound business practices."
The ports surveyed handled 1.46 million TEU of container traffic in October, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That's down 1.3 percent from September's 1.48 million TEU, and 3.5 percent from the record high 1.51 million TEU set in October 2006.
October is traditionally the peak month of the year as retailers stock up for the holiday season, but the figures left September as the peak month for 2007.
November was estimated at 1.36 million TEU, down 3.5 percent from a year ago. If the estimate holds true when actual numbers come in, it will mark the fourth month in a row that cargo failed to meet last year's levels. (August was down 1.4 percent from August 2006 and September was down 1.9 percent from September 2006.)
Ports covered by Port Tracker are Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma and Seattle on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston in the Gulf. All the ports are rated "low" for congestion, the same as last month.