Mind The Incomings—–Port of LA/Long Beach Import Containers Down 4.3% Y/Y, Implying Weak Holiday Outlook Among Retailers
By ERICA E. PHILLIPS
Shipping containers sit at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.PHOTO: REUTERS
Imports slumped at the nation’s largest port complex in August, a sign that retailers remain cautious in their outlook for holiday sales amid changing patterns in consumer spending.
The nation’s two largest container ports, in neighboring Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., imported a combined 732,992 20-foot equivalent units, a standard measure for container cargo, in the month of August. That was down 4.3% from the same month last year. Long Beach’s import volume declined 10.2% while inbound loads in Los Angeles rose less than 1%.
But the volumes coming through Southern California were worse than anticipated. The National Retail Federation and research firm Hackett Associates predicted nationwide imports through major ports would slip 0.4% in August.
Some major East Coast hubs reported strong monthly growth last month. In Virginia, loaded imports rose over 15% from a year ago. In South Carolina, loaded imports rose 7.2% over the same period. And despite the year-over-year decline, the Southern California ports’ August imports were up by more than 7% from 2014.
“Millions of dollars worth of merchandise is in limbo at the moment,” the National Retail Federation’s Jonathan Gold said in a statement. He added that many of the delayed containers should be unloaded by the end of the month,, and the NRF predicts imports will rise 5.3% in October compared with last year’s total.
Exports were a bright spot. Los Angeles and Long Beach reported combined exports of 312,252 TEUs—an increase of 10.5% over last August on the outbound side. Analysts attributed the rise to a weakening in the value of the dollar in recent weeks, which has made U.S. goods more affordable in foreign markets.