U.S. import cargo slows as retailers prepare for record holiday sales

Nov 16, 2023
Written by WR Communications


As 2023 progresses, the influx of imported goods into major U.S. container ports is anticipated to diminish following the arrival of most holiday season merchandise. This trend aligns with the Global Port Tracker report’s predictions. Retailers are gearing up for a potentially record-breaking holiday sales season, having adequately stocked their shelves and distribution centers to cater to both in-store and online shoppers. Earlier concerns regarding labor contracts in ports, railroads, and delivery services have been resolved, ensuring a smooth supply chain operation. This efficiency promises shoppers an easy time finding desired products.

A significant increase in holiday sales is predicted, estimating growth between 3% and 4% compared to last year. This growth rate mirrors pre-pandemic levels, with anticipated sales between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion, surpassing last year’s record of $929.5 billion.

Despite the slowdown in imports, the U.S. economy remains more robust than those in Europe and Asia. These regions’ recessions have reduced consumer demand, leaving shipping companies with surplus capacity. This situation arose from the rapid expansion of fleets in response to the cargo surge in recent years.

U.S. consumers continue to stand out globally, benefiting from ongoing job and wage growth and the ability to utilize savings accumulated during the pandemic. However, a potential global recession in cargo trade could impact the supply chain.

In September, U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 2.03 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), a slight decrease from last year but an increase from August. This marked the highest import volume since October 2022. October’s projected figures were 1.92 million TEUs, a decline from the previous year, while November and December are forecasted to see year-over-year increases, with 1.88 million and 1.85 million TEUs, respectively. These figures indicate a gradual winding down of import cargo as the year concludes.


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