Retail Imports Expected to Reach Monthly Records in 2021

Retail container ports will see monthly import records in 2021.

Tm Ls Photo G Adobe Stock Cargo Containers

Imports at retail container ports are expected to continue to see monthly records into the summer as the nation recovers from the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In December, U.S. ports handled 2.11 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up 0.2% from November and up 22.3% year-over-year. This brings 2020’s total to 22 million TEUs, up 1.9% from 2019.

“The import numbers we’re seeing reflect retailers’ expectations for consumer demand to the point that many factories in Asia that normally close for Chinese New Year this month are remaining open to keep up,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Regardless of whether it’s in-store or on retailers’ websites, the record holiday season and numbers for 2020 show consumers are buying again and have been for a while. This surge has been going on for months, and retailers are importing merchandise faster than ever.”

Per the National Retail Federation:

  • Retail sales during the November-December holiday season in 2020 hit a record $789.4 billion
  • February is historically the slowest month of the year for imports

  • Each month from January through June would be a record for the month, and the first half of 2021 is forecast at 11.5 million TEU, up 22.1% from the same period in 2020