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'Vaccine Rates Are Increasing, Shoppers Are Back In Stores': NRF

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With increased vaccinations against the Covid-19 virus, consumers are confident enough to return to normal shopping patterns, according to the National Retail Federation or NRF and Hackett Associates. Meanwhile, supply chains are struggling to meet that demand with shortages of labor, equipment and shipping capacity.

Going ahead, the organization projects challenges of supply chain disruptions, port congestion and rising shipping costs to continue until the end of the year.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report, prepared for NRF by Hackett Associates, noted that April was the busiest on record for imports at the largest retail container ports in the United States. It is expected that the month of May could turn out to have set a new all-time record.

In the month of April, U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.15 million TEU, the busiest April on record, and an increase of 33.4 percent from a year earlier, when most stores were closed by the coronavirus pandemic. A TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalents.

Meanwhile, April's results were lower sequentially, as March recorded 2.27 million TEU, the largest number of containers in a single month.

For May, it is estimated that the numbers would be at 2.32 million TEU, which would be up 51.1 percent from last year and would beat March's record.

NRF and Hackett expect June to record 2.13 million TEU, a growth of 32.8 percent year-over-year. Further, July would recorded 2.19 million TEU, up 14.2 percent; August at 2.26 million TEU, up 7.5 percent; and September at 2.14 million TEU, up 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, October is expected to record 2.07 million TEU, down 6.5 percent for the first year-over-year decline since July 2020.

Further, the first half of 2021 is forecast at 12.8 million TEU, up 35.3 percent over the same period in 2020. The full year 2021 is expected to beat 2020's full-year total of 22 million TEU, which was up 1.9 percent over 2019 despite the pandemic.

According to Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, shipping capacity struggles hurt supply chains. He noted that a number of vessels taken out of service when volumes were low remain in drydock while others are delayed in congested ports due to lack of manpower as people remain hesitant about returning to work.

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