This year we expect that peak season will persist for a longer period than in previous years, extending up to Chinese New Year (February 5, 2019 – February 19,2019) when it should slow down and recover at the first of March. Typical import schedules taper off around November as the holiday retail shipments are landed and incorporated into store inventory to prepare for Christmas whereupon shipments fall off until spring. Retail shipments pick up and continue in March, when seasonal goods, including patio furniture and yard equipment begin to arrive for spring and summer shopping.
Slowing of imports during January* are typical when retailers are working to prepare their inventory for shutdowns that come with the Chinese New Year celebrations. Retailers need enough inventory in stock to manage supplies for the two weeks when there’s no imports coming from China. These cyclical events are becoming more difficult to predict as imports continue to grow each year. The National Retail Federation (NRF) explains that total US retail imports will rise 4.5% year over year (2017) and holiday season retail imports are expected to be up 4.3% – 4.8% over 2017.
Trans-Pacific spot rates have a backslid slightly though they’re still at a 5 year record as extra loaders have alleviated the tight bottlenecks causing delays in cargo moves once they’ve hit the US ports. Holiday demand has the added benefit of using seasonal workers called upon for short periods to alleviate the booming cargo pouring in and explains the reduction in spot rates though they’re expected to recover and rise before leveling out.
*It’s important to note that most of these imports from the trans-Pacific are being urgently expedited because of the tariffs coming at the end of the year. A 25% tariff is excellent motivation to move as much cargo to the US as possible before the tariffs are in full effect.