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Retail Imports Not as Strong

After a year of unprecedented increases, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to return to normal growth rates in 2022 but volumes will remain high, reports the National Retail Federation

U.S. ports handled 2.11 million TEU in November, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 4.5% from October but up 0.5% year-over-year.

Ports have not reported December numbers yet, but NRF projects the month at 2.18 million TEU, up 3.7% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.

Those numbers would bring 2021 to a total of 25.9 million TEU, a 17.9% increase over 2020’s record high of 22 million TEU set despite the pandemic.

January is forecast at 2.23 million TEU, up 8.6% year-over-year; February at 1.95 million TEU, up 4.2% year-over-year; March at 2.19 million, down 3.3%; April at 2.2 million TEU, up 2.5%, and May at 2.32 million TEU, down 0.5%.

“Even with the holiday season behind us, supply chain challenges continue,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. “The huge increases in imports we’ve seen have leveled out, but volume is still at high levels.”

He said the federation hopes the system will find a way to catch up, but there is much that remains to be done to clear out port backlogs and increase capacity throughout the supply chain.

“Amid all of this, the omicron variant is a wild card that could not only impact the supply chain workforce but once again drive more imports if consumers stay home and spend their money on retail goods rather than going out,” Gold said.

Imports saw year-over-year growth as high as 65% in some months during 2021. But increases returned to single digits by last fall and should remain there this year, NRF forecast.

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