Imports Have Begun Slowing

The National Retail Federation said imports at major U.S. container ports are expected to fall to the lowest level in nearly two years by the end of 2022.

The trade group’s Global Port Tracker indicated major ports handled 2.26 million 20-foot equivalent units in August — up 3.5 percent from July, but down 0.4 percent compared with August 2021.

September projections are 2.07 million TEUs for the month, down 3 percent year over year, while October is forecast at 2 million TEUs, down 9.4 percent compared with  the same month in 2021.

The last time the monthly total fell below 2 million TEUs was in February 2021, when major ports recorded 1.87 million TEUs, NRF officials said.

The first half of 2022 totaled 13.5 million TEUs, a 5.5 percent increase over the first six months of 2021.

For the full year, the report expects ports to reach a total of 26 million TEUs, up 0.7 percent. That would be an annual record for most imports of all time, beating 2021’s 25.8 million TEUs.

In 2023, imports are expected to briefly bounce back, although slowdowns are expected in February due to the Lunar New Year shutting down production in Asian countries.

NRF forecasts that 2022 retail sales will grow between 6 percent and 8 percent compared to last year. Sales were up 7.5 percent during the first eight months of 2022, NRF officials said.

A NRF news release said imports from Asia have slowed and cuts in carriers’ shipping capacity reflect falling demand for merchandise from well-stocked retailers even as consumers continue to spend.

Another factor has been closure of factories during China’s October Golden Week holiday along with the Chinese government imposing lockdowns in an effort to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

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