Retail Cargo set to set record in August as merchants transition from back-to-school season to vacation preparations



“Strong consumer demand has overtaken supply chain operations since late last year and may remain a challenge as the holidays approach.”

NRF Vice-President Jonathan Gold

WASHINGTON – Imports at the nation’s largest retail container ports are set to hit a new record in August as consumer demand continues to stretch supply chains and retailers move from back-to-school to peak season shipping for winter vacation goods, according to the monthly The Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Back-to-school supplies have been hit by the same supply chain disruptions and port congestion that have affected other products this year, but retailers are working hard to ensure school and university products are where they need to be, “NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said Jonathan Gold. “Strong consumer demand has overtaken supply chain operations since late last year and may remain a challenge as the holidays approach. The persistent lack of manpower, equipment and capacity has highlighted systemic issues and the need to build a true 21st century supply chain to ensure resilience in the face of the next major disruption. The passage of infrastructure legislation currently pending in Congress is a key step in this direction. We need the administration to continue to focus on helping to resolve these issues as well. “

“The pressure of continued economic expansion places considerable strain on the logistics supply chain,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. “We are seeing a lack of shipping capacity combined with port congestion as ships line up to unload cargo from Asia and Europe. Delays are spreading to the city side as port terminals grapple with space shortages and labor issues plague ports, railways and trucking companies. This part of the recovery is not pretty to see.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker processed 2.15 million twenty-foot equivalent units in June, the latest month for which final figures are available. This was down 7.8% from May but up 33.7% from a year earlier, when many stores were closed due to the pandemic. A TEU is a 20 foot container or its equivalent.

Ports have yet to release July figures, but Global Port Tracker has projected the month at 2.22 million TEUs, which would be up 15.7% from the same period last year. .

August is forecast at 2.37 million TEUs, which would represent a 12.6 percent year-over-year increase and exceed May’s 2.33 million TEU for the most large number of containers imported in a single month since NRF started tracking imports in 2002. August is the start of the “high season” when retailers stock up on holiday merchandise each year. Many retailers are increasing their shipments this year as part of their risk mitigation strategies to ensure sufficient stock will be available during the holidays.

September is forecast at 2.21 million TEUs, up 4.9% year-on-year; October to 2.15 million TEUs, down 3% for the first year-over-year decline since July 2020; November to 2.07 million TEU, down 1.5%, and December to 2.02 million TEU, down 4.1%.

The first half of 2021 totaled 12.8 million TEUs, up 35.6% from the same period last year. For the full year, 2021 is on track to total 25.9 million TEUs, up 17.5% from 2020 and a new annual record exceeding 22 million from last year. Cargo imports in 2020 increased by 1.9% compared to 2019 despite the pandemic.

Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the US ports of Los Angeles / Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York / New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members and subscription information is available at or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members is available at

About the NRF
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail association, is a passionate advocate for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help the retail business thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, DC, NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, contributing $ 3.9 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four jobs in the United States – 52 million American workers. For more than a century, NRF has been the voice of every retailer and every retail profession, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact of retailing on local communities and global economies.

About Hackett Associates
Hackett Associates provides advisory, research and expert advisory services to the international shipping industry, government agencies and international institutions.



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