Retailers rush to bring products into country
Imports set records

By Katherine Michalets

August 10, 2018

WAUKESHA — The upcoming tariffs created by the Trump administration have caused concern and uncertainty among leaders in several industries, which includes retailers, which in turn has led to a significant increase in the importation of goods.

According to the Global Port Tracker report, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports have set two new records this summer and are expected to set another this month. The report was released Thursday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million twenty-foot equivalent units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, which is an increase of 1.6 percent from May and up 7.8 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

“Tariffs on most consumer products have yet to take effect but retailers appear to be getting prepared before that can happen,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “We’re seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come. The good news for consumers is that avoiding tariffs holds off price increases that will inevitably come if the reckless and misguided trade war is allowed to continue.”

According to the report, July was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.4 percent year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 4.4 percent; September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1 percent; October at 1.88 million, up 4.9 percent; November at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.6 percent, and December at 1.79 million TEU, up 4 percent.

“Global Port Tracker has only marginally downgraded imports for 2018 but we expect to see a larger downturn going into 2019 resulting from the trade war as well as an anticipated slowing of the economy,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said in a statement. “The volatility and non-fact-based decisions coming from Washington have created uncertainty.”

The June number set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, according to the Thursday report, topping the previous record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017.