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U.S. Ports to See 15% Gain in 2010

The nation's major retail ports are expecting to see import volume reach rise 15% in 2010.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The nation's major retail ports are expected to see import volume reach 14.5 million containers for 2010, marking a 15% increase from last year.

According to the National Retail Federation's monthly global Port Tracker report, U.S. ports handled 1.3 million containers in June, representing a 30% gain from volumes recorded in June 2009. It was also the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year improvements.

While 2010 volumes will show improvement, they are well off from the 15.2 million containers handled in 2008.

"We aren't back to where we were two years ago and consumers aren't convinced that the recession is over quite yet, but 2010 is clearly going to finish better than last year," said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for NRF. "Cargo numbers this summer are showing unusually high percentage increases, but that appears to be an indication of shortages in shipping capacity earlier in the year rather than sales expectations."

Tightening shipping capacity seems to have made retailers nervous. So much so, in fact, that the NRF believes July may end up being the peak shipping month for the year rather than October, which has traditionally been the peak shipping month for retailers bringing in holiday merchandise. In this case, retailers are eager to avoid potential bottlenecks at ports that could result from the lower shipping capacity.

While ocean carriers are slowly bringing capacity they had idled during the recession back online, the retail sector has been struggling with lower consumer spending. Retailers have been limping through the summer months, on Thursday reporting mixed same-store sales results after posting disappointing same-store sales results in June.

>> July Retail Sales: Mixed, but Bouncing Back

"There are indications that the shipping season may have peaked earlier than normal as the rush to restock inventories earlier in the year intersects with a combination of increased shipping capacity, consumer confidence levels not seen since August 2009 and the slowing growth of consumer spending," said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which produces the report. "The traditional peak season may be melting away."

Cramer's Take: Same-store Sales

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