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Retail Imports On The Rise

Written by Tim Morral
Published: 1/16/2014

National Retail Federation predicts January retail imports will increase nearly five percent, a sign that retailing may be off to a strong start in 2014.

For retailers, the last quarter of 2013 presented a best of times, worst of times scenario. Although many retailers reported robust holiday sales, sellers were forced to offer deep discounts much earlier in the holiday shopping season, significantly reducing their bottom line profitability.

Retail Imports Rising

But recently, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that retail imports are on the rise at U.S. container ports. In its monthly Global Port Tracker report, the NRF said that the volume of retail imports is expected to rise 4.8 percent in January, compared to the same time last year.

"Retailers are still assessing the holiday season, but they're also looking ahead to see what will happen in the new year," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Based on these early numbers, 2014 looks like it should be off to a good start."?

Retail import volumes during August, September and October (months when retailers are stocking up for the holiday season) totaled 4.35 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), an increase of 4.3 percent over 2012.

The import of foreign products is a key variable in the U.S. retail marketplace. But for small and medium-sized retailers, finding good products to import can be challenging, especially when the retailer lacks strategic partnerships with overseas suppliers. By conducting thorough market research and gradually developing overseas relationships through tradeshows or other means, even small retailers can begin to leverage importing for business growth.

"The new year looks to be stronger than the outgoing one, with better-than-expected GDP figures, lower unemployment rates and continued low inflation," said Ben Hackett, founder at Hackett Associates, co-publisher of the report. "Expectations of a stronger dollar will also help to increase consumer confidence as import prices continue to fall."

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