Sweet Suite 2016

Deal Reached to End Severe West Coast Port Backlog

Multiple sources report that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year labor contract, ending several months of back-ups and delays at 29 West Coast ports.

The deal was reached with the assistance of U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, following more than nine months of talks. As reported by Bloomberg News this past Friday, talks had broken down this month over a union demand that it be able to fire arbitrators in workplace grievances. The two sides had reached terms over salaries, benefits, the right of union members to maintain and repair truck chassis used to haul shipping containers, and health care. [Read more...]

NRF Calls on White House to Intervene in West Coast Ports Dispute

nrfFollowing news that terminal vessel operations at west coast ports have been suspended, the National Retail Federation (NRF) called on the White House to intervene.

“The slowdowns need to end,” says NRF Vice President for Supply Chain Jonathan Gold. “It’s time for the White House to immediately engage in this critically important economic priority and force the two sides to remain at the negotiating table until a deal is done.”

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports were expected to rise 10.1 percent this month over the same period last year, even as west coast ports came closer to a possible shutdown, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker released by the NRF and Hackett Associates.

Despite nine months of ongoing talks, the lack of a contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as well as other operational issues, has led to crisis-level congestion at the ports.

NRF Says Supreme Court Ruling on Swipe Fees Leaves Merchants and Consumers Paying Too Much

nrfOn Tuesday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) expressed disappointment at the U.S. Supreme Court for not reviewing an appellate court ruling on whether the Federal Reserve (Fed) set a 2011 cap on debit card swipe fees higher than the level sought by Congress in legislation passed the year before. [Read more...]

NRF Reports 4 Percent Increase in Retail Holiday Sales

nrfAccording to the National Retail Federation (NRF), December retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, decreased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month, and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. The significant drop in gasoline prices for the month of December brought down much of the month-to-month growth. [Read more...]

Total Spending, Number of Shoppers Down During Black Friday Weekend

As reported by the National Retail Federation (NRF), roughly 87 million Americans visited stores on Black Friday. However, total spending for the long Thanksgiving weekend is projected to be down more than 10 percent from last year’s estimate.

According to an NRF survey released on Sunday, total spending for the four-day weekend is expected to reach $50.9 billion, a decrease of 11.3 percent from last year’s estimate of $57.4 billion. NRF data also estimates that 133.7 million shoppers will have visited stores this weekend, down 5 percent year-over-year and below the expected number of 140.1 million. The survey also estimates flat growth in online sales.

This data follows strong starts reported by some retailers for the Black Friday weekend. Both Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp. began offering special Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, beginning at 6 p.m. While neither Wal-Mart nor Target has reported specific sales figures, both claimed a high number of customers that shopped at stores as well as online. [Read more...]

Gift Cards Are Shoppers’ Choice This Holiday Season, Says NRF

nrfThis holiday season, gift card spending is set to top all previous records. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74, up from $163.16 last year, with total spending expected to reach $31.74 billion. In an October NRF survey, 62 percent of shoppers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item for eight years in a row.

According to the survey, shoppers will spend more on average per card than they did last year, with total spending on gift cards increasing 83 percent since NRF began tracking consumers’ intentions to buy gift cards as holiday gifts in 2003.

The survey found adults 65 and up will spend the most on gift cards, with young adults between 18 to 24 years old spending the least, and men planning to spend significantly more than women ($180.81 versus $165.09, respectively).

Shoppers noted the ease of buying, the ability to allow recipients to select their own gifts, and sticking to holiday budgets as top reasons for choosing gift cards over traditional gifts. Gift cards for department stores, restaurants, and coffee shops are expected to be top choices this holiday season.

Continuing Port Issues Leads to Record Retail Imports, Toy Industry Reaction

nrfImport cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to slow down this month following record levels seen in September and October, as retailers rushed to bring merchandise into the country ahead of a possible shutdown of West Coast ports, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Import volume at U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report is expected to total 1.4 million containers this month, down from 1.59 million each in September and October, a number that broke the previous monthly high of 1.52 million set in August. Cargo volume has been well above average each month since spring as retailers have imported merchandise early in case of any disruption on the docks.

The 1.59 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU, or 20-foot cargo container) handled in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available, was up 5.2 percent from August and 10.9 percent from September 2013. October was estimated at 1.59 million TEU, within about 3,000 containers of September’s level and up 11 percent from the same month last year.

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) is inviting members to participate in a teleconference with Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, to learn about what is being done to alleviate back-ups and delays at the port. The discussion is scheduled for November 13 at 1 p.m. ET. TIA members can contact Rebecca Mond, director of federal governmental affairs, at rmond@toyassociation.org for dial-in information.

Retailers Re-Focus Shipping Calendar in Preparation for Surge in Online Shopping, Reports NRF

nrfExpectations are high for a strong omnichannel holiday season, so retailers are preparing their shipping operations to avoid delivery and service hiccups, according to Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, indicates that nearly eight in 10 retailers surveyed, or roughly 78.8 percent, will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before the big day. This compares to 73.7 percent last holiday season. In addition, approximately 21.2 percent will set their standard shipping deadlines to expire on December 19 or later, compared to 26.3 percent last year.

Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled that plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, 69.1 percent said their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before December 19. Nearly three quarters of retailers polled last year, or 74.2 percent, had a deadline on the equivalent day; in this case, December 20. [Read more...]

NRF Offers Optimistic Forecast for Holiday Sales and Hires

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales (excluding auto, gas, and restaurant sales) to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion in November and December, higher than 2013’s 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes direct-to-consumer, kiosk, and online sales.

Additionally, NRF expects between 725,000 and 800,000 new seasonal employers for the holiday shopping season, potentially more than retailers hired in 2013.

NRF’s shop.org division expects online sales to grow 8 to 11 percent more than last holiday season.

Click here for more information about the studies.

NRF Says Record Number of Americans to Buy Halloween Costumes This Year

nrfAccording to data from the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Halloween Consumer Spending Survey, more than two-thirds—or 67.4 percent—of celebrants will buy Halloween costumes for the holiday, which is the most in the survey’s 11-year history.

An estimated 2.6 million children plan to dress up as one of Disney’s Frozen characters, while about 1.8 million children will dress as one of the re-imagined classic characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Princess (3.4 million), animal (3 million), and Spider-Man (2.6 million) will also be popular choices for children.

The NRF survey also found that 75 million adults will dress in costume, with most sticking to traditional options, including a witch (4.8 million), an animal (2.6 million), a Batman character (2 million), and a pirate (1.8 million).

A total of $2.8 billion will be spent on costumes overall, with celebrants shelling out $1.1 billion on children’s costumes, $1.4 billion on adult costumes, and $350 million on costumes for pets. Findings revealed that among the 14.3 percent of celebrants planning to outfit their pets, 10.8 percent will dress them as a pumpkin, the top costume choice again this year.

Slightly more than 34 percent of Americans will look for costume inspiration online, while 33 percent will seek it at a retail store or costume shop. The survey found 11.4 percent of Americans will turn to Pinterest for costume ideas, up from 9.3 percent last year, with young adults driving the most Pinterest traffic: 21.2 percent and 21 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year-olds, respectively.