What's not in store: Merchants hold back imports

Latest industry report shows sharp drop in volume of shipments of retail goods, with weakness expected to flow through summer.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

This summer, I plan to
  • Take a vacation
  • Cut back on my summer travel
  • Get used to "staycations"

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A significant drop in volume of imported retail goods into the United States is providing fresh evidence that a slowing economy has pinched American consumers' ability to shop freely, according to an industry report Wednesday.

In-bound container traffic to the U.S. was down 4.8% in March from February, which traditionally is the slowest month of the year for retail-related imports, according to the latest joint monthly Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and forecasting firm Global Insight.

That figure represented the lowest monthly volume since February 2006.

What's more, the NRF forecasts that growth in-bound container traffic will remain at or below last year's levels through the summer months "due to the underlying weakness in consumer demand in the U.S. economy," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy with the NRF.

Looking forward at year-over-year figures, Port Tracker estimates a 3.2% dip in April, a 4.8% fall in May, a 7% drop in June, and a 2% decline in July. In September, in-bound container traffic is finally seen rising by 3%.

"Retailers are watching consumers' shopping patterns very carefully this year, and the volume of imports reflects what merchants expect they can sell in their stores," Gold said. "These numbers show a cautious approach to inventory management for this fall."

This means that merchants are planning to be extra cautious with their inventory over the summer and potentially over the critical fourth-quarter period as well which includes the crucial November-December holiday shopping months.

"After last year's difficult holiday season, retailers want to make sure that they aren't stuck with leftover inventory going into 2009, " said Craig Shearman, NRF's vice president for government affairs.

But he added that the trade group currently doesn't anticipate that holiday shoppers will face product shortages because of tighter supplies. To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More


Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.