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(Source: Progressive Railroading 10/13/2020)

August’s TEU level was the highest number of containers imported in a single month since the NRF began tracking imports in 2002. Photo – Port of Oakland

U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 2.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in August, a 9.7% increase from July and an 8% increase year over year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates reported late last week.

August’s TEU level was the highest number of containers imported in a single month since the NRF began tracking imports in 2002, beating 2.04 million logged in October 2018 ahead of a scheduled tariff increase, NRF and Hackett officials said in a press release.

Imports reached an all-time high this summer as retail sales bounced back from the pandemic, as merchants replenished inventories and stocked up early for the holiday season, they said.

“After staying at home this spring, consumers are buying again and retail supply chains are working overtime to keep up with demand,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Nothing about this year is predictable, but retailers are making their shelves and warehouses are well-stocked for the holidays.”

Retailers are stocking up for the holidays earlier than usual because they expect consumers will shop early to avoid crowds and shipping delays, Gold added.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the summer import growth reflects retail sales that have seen year-over-year gains each month since June, including 2.6 percent in August.

“Retail sales are a big part of consumer spending, so one would expect to see an increase when the economy improves and consumers are confident,” said Hackett. “But less than six months after the biggest decreases on record this spring, retail sales have bounced back to pre-crisis levels.”

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