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2009 Retail Import Volume to be Lowest Since 2002

For Immediate Release
Press Contacts:
NRF: J. Craig Shearman (202) 626-8134 shearmanc@nrf.com
IHS Global Insight: Paul Bingham (202) 481-9216 paul.bingham@globalinsight.com

2009 Retail Import Volume to be Lowest Since 2002

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2009 – Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to total 12.3 million containers for 2009, a drop of 18.8 percent since last year and the lowest level in seven years, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.

“The national recession has clearly been reflected in the volume of cargo U.S. retailers have imported this year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Numbers are down significantly, but the good news is that we’re expecting to move from double-digit declines into the single digits by the end of the year. That’s some light at the end of the tunnel that we’re really looking forward to seeing.”

The 12.3 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units forecast for 2009 compares with 15.2 million TEU last year and is the lowest level since the 11.6 million TEU seen in 2002. One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.

U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.01 million TEU in June, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 2 percent from May and 22 percent from June 2008, marking the 24th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline.

Volume for July was estimated at 1.06 million TEU, while August is forecast at 1.09 million TEU and September is forecast at 1.08 million TEU. All three months are down 20 percent compared with last year. October, traditionally the peak month of the year, is forecast at 1.12 million TEU, down 18 percent. November is forecast at 1.05 million TEU, down 15 percent, and December is forecast at 1.02 million TEU, down 3.8 percent from 2008.

The 3.8 percent decline in December is significant because it is the first single-digit decline of the year and compares with drops that have ranged from 15 percent to 32 percent.

“This year’s peak season is beginning with very weak import container volume, and even though traffic is slowly building, that’s going to be the case through the remainder of the year,” IHS Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. “Summertime rail maintenance and the threat of hurricanes could cause some delays in the transportation system across the country, but the ports themselves are free of congestion and have more than sufficient capacity.”

All U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker – Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast – are rated “low” for congestion, the same as last month.

Port Tracker, which is produced by the economic research, forecasting and analysis firm IHS Global Insight for NRF, looks at inbound container volume, the availability of trucks and railroad cars to move cargo out of the ports, labor conditions and other factors that affect cargo movement and congestion. The report is free to NRF retail members. Subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Non-NRF members can contact IHS Global Insight Director of Business Development Diana Wyman at (202) 481-9265.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

IHS Global Insight (www.globalinsight.com) provides the most comprehensive economic and financial information available on countries, regions and industries, using a unique combination of expertise, models, data and software within a common analytical framework to support planning and decision-making. Through the world's first same-day analysis and risk assessment service, IHS Global Insight provides immediate insightful analysis of market conditions and key events around the world, covering economic, political, and operational factors. IHS (NYSE: IHS, www.ihs.com) is a leading global source of critical information and insight, dedicated to providing the most complete and trusted information and expertise. IHS product and service solutions span four areas of information that encompass the most important concerns facing global business today: energy, product lifecycle, security, and environment supported by macroeconomics.

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