Retail imports at the nation's seaports are expected to be flat through most of the summer but will ramp up in the fall as retailers stock up for the holiday shopping season.
Import volume is expected to grow a modest 1.1% in July compared with July 2012, according to the National Retail Federation's monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday.
The volume of imports this year has been flat compared with last year, the report said. U.S. ports moved 1.38 million 20-foot containers in May, the latest month for which data is available. That's up 1.2% from the month before, but down 0.6% from May 2012.
The retail group predicts June will be similarly stagnant, with only 1.37 million containers moved -- down 0.7% from last year.
But an improving economy and an uptick in consumer spending should bode well for import volume this fall, the group said.
“With the economy recovering slowly, retailers have been cautious with imports this summer but it’s clear that they expect an upturn later in the year,” said Jonathan Gold, the retail group's vice president for supply chain and customs policy.
“Import numbers have been close to flat since spring, but we expect to see stronger increases this fall," he said.
The firm forecasts import volume will be 1.46 million in October, a 9.1% increase over October of last year.