Zepol's Blog of U.S. Imports and Exports

Gobble Down Import Facts This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table Imports As the end of the year approaches, there seems to be a never-ending barrage of holidays. While you might feel a bit overwhelmed with the party preparations or planning out your shopping lists, many retailers began stocking-up on your fall favorites months ago.

Turkeys, potatoes, and cranberries might make the classic Thanksgiving favorites but the top imports found on the table in your dinner spread are actually wine, pumpkins, squash and gourds, and apples.
Here are the fast facts:

The largest imported product to the United States is non-sparkling grape wine (HTS 2204.21, HTS 2204.29), with $3.35 billion imported between January and September 2014.

Sparkling grape wine (HTS 2204.10) is second in imports at a much smaller $610 million. Sparkling wines saw a dramatic monthly increase in imports in August 2014 from about $80.04 million to $101 million, a similar trend occurred last year around the same time.

Although pumpkins, squash, and gourds (HTS 0709.93) are most popular around the holidays, over 87 percent of imports arrived in the United States within the first five months of the year.

The United States imported $228 million worth of apples (HTS 0808.10) in 2014. 91 percent of these imports arrived between April and August.

Thanksgiving (seasonal) favorites:

US Turkey ImportsIn October 2013, the United States imported $45 million worth of cranberries (HTS 0810.40.0300, HTS 0811.90.3500) from Canada, 50 percent of total imports within the last year.

So far in 2014, the United States has imported $105 million in potatoes (HTS 0701.90).

Only about $350 thousand worth of turkeys (HTS 0207.24, HTS 0207.25) are imported into the United States, all of which arrive from Canada.

Top 10 U.S. Ports by TEUs in 2014

As the holiday season approaches, retailers, consumers, and even U.S. ports, as a recent article in the LA Times reports, are beginning to notice the over-stuffed shelves and congested traffic that heralds, “Let the season commence!” Though the total impact of the holiday season on imports will not be available until early next year, data for Q1-Q3 2014 is in. Imports of TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) have reached 13.6 million, up by 6 percent from 2013 according to a Zepol’s TradeIQ database.

Q1-Q3 2014
by TEUs
% Change
Q1-Q3 2013
Los Angeles, CA 3,213,907 9%
Long Beach, CA 2,643,583 3%
Newark, NJ/New York, NY 2,201,287 12%
Savannah, GA
992,271 16%
Norfolk, VA
726,103 9%
Oakland, CA 610,147 3%
Tacoma, WA 609,006 12%
Houston, TX 572,619 12%
Charleston, SC 555,759 13%
Seattle, WA 347,657 -23%
Other 2,015,651 4%
TOTAL 13,662,459 6%
* January through September 2014 (Q1-Q3)

The top port of 2014 remains Los Angeles, CA with 23.5 percent of total TEUs imported into the United States. So far this year, the Port of Los Angeles has imported more than 3.2 million TEUs with the busiest month-to-date being September, with over 400,000 TEUs. Long Beach, CA follows at an impressive 2.64 million TEUs in 2014; while Newark/New York sit comfortably in third with 2.2 million TEUs imported.

US Ports Imports Graph 2014
* Comparison of Top 10 U.S. Ports by TEUs for 2014

It has been a good year for imports, with most ports seeing a steady increase in monthly TEUs. In fact, out of the top 10 U.S. ports, 9 posted an increase in TEUs from last year (2013 to 2014). Savannah, GA, ranked fourth, saw the largest increase in TEUs, with a 16 percent jump. Lagging behind, Seattle, WA, currently ranked tenth, is down 23 percent from this time last year. With speculations over the economic recovery in the United States, it will be interesting to see what Q4 brings to the trend. Stay tuned for the yearly round up in 2015.

What is Trade Data and Trade Intelligence?

Although frequently used at Zepol, and by our customers, the terms ‘trade data’ and ‘trade intelligence’ can be a bit confusing to someone who has only recently been exposed to the information. Check out the definitions below for a better understanding of these trade terms.

What is trade data?
trade data and trade Intelligence image The term trade data can be defined as any type of information that refers to a country’s domestic or international trade of goods or services.

In the United States, trade data generally refers to the information based on the trade of goods imported into or exported from the country. This data is based on public information released from government groups like U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or the U.S. Census Bureau.

What is U.S. Customs and Border Protection trade data?
CBP trade data is comprised of U.S. import or export bills of lading. These bills contain the detailed shipment information that is used to import or export goods. This shipment information can include fields like the individual products shipped, the shipper of the goods, the importing company, and much more. (click here to view a bill of lading sample)

What is U.S. Census trade data?
U.S. Census trade data is made up values and weights of imported or exported products labeled by commodity codes. These codes include HS, NAICS, SITC, and more. Different commodity codes are used by specific industries and government agencies to categorize and classify products and identify what groups of products are being traded.

What is trade intelligence?
Trade intelligence is when consulting or data firms take trade data and make it actionable. It’s the concept of formatting information and turning it into market knowledge to help businesses make accurate and confident decisions.

For example, Zepol collects this public trade data from CBP and U.S. Census. It then makes the millions of shipments, and commodity codes, searchable within a database. The specialized database provides trends, insight, and a higher ‘intelligence’ of U.S. and international trade. Companies subscribe to and use this intel to monitor competitors’ shipments, locate suppliers, generate sales leads, and analyze market trends. All of these uses are based on trade information that was arranged and displayed for actionable results, i.e. trade intelligence.

Halloween Imports Arrive Hauntingly Early

When retailers put out their Halloween section in August, we roll our eyes because it’s way too soon, but in reality most companies start prepping for Halloween as early as April. Not only do businesses think about trick-or-treating during their Easter-egg-hunt, they also import a spooky amount of this mysterious merch' all summer long. In fact, so far in 2014 U.S. companies have imported over 65,000 metric tons of Halloween paraphernalia, with the majority arriving in June, July, and August. That’s the equivalent to three ocean cargo-ships (18,000+ containers) filled to the rim with orange and black goodies.

The heaping portion of Halloween imports isn’t costumes or candy, but actually decorations. Nearly half of the total Halloween imports this year are strictly items like ghoulish garland, scary sculls, and treacherous tombstones, AAAAHHH! All imported to make your haunted house or costume party witchin’ this October.

So who is importing all these nightmares? The top importing company of Halloween products is Dollar Tree Distribution, which imported over 8,000 metric tons so far this year. Other major Halloween importers include: Michael’s Stores, Spencer Gifts, and Dollar General. So there should be no shortage of 99-cent tricks or treats this year and available in stores months before you need them.
Halloween Monthly Product Imports

Imports Rise on School Supplies

It's back to school once again for kids and parents, but U.S. retailers were prepping for this months ago. Most school supplies were imported in May, June, and July to get ready for the high August demand. Pencils, notebooks, and backpacks are among the many products that see an increase in imports during the summer.

Annually, imports of school supplies like notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, backpacks, scissors, boards, and glue are valued at an estimated $2 billion. With 39.4 percent arriving in the United States during these “peak” months, the value of school supplies to the United States from May 2014 – July 2014 is just above $946.5 million.

School Supplies Imports

This time of year has the largest volume of imports for some of these products, with values doubling or even tripling to accommodate the back-to-school rush. For example, annual imports of backpacks (HTS 4202.92.3020) from August 2013 – July 2014 totaled just over $692 million, while roughly $334 million of these imports occurred in the past few months. That is roughly 48 percent of the total yearly imports concentrated over a three-month period.

Another top import during this period is notebooks, (HTS 4820.10.2060, HTS 4820.10.2040, HTS 4820.10.2030) which bring in $279 million annually. This summer's imports of notebooks reached about 50 percent of their annual import value, or an estimated $141 million.

Though it is difficult to see on the chart above, of the common school supplies imported, scissors (HTS 8213.00.3000) did see a significant increase in imports for May and June. Scissors may not be the highest-valued import, but over the summer months about $593,000 of scissors were imported, which was 44 percent of all scissor imports for the last year. Last year's total value of shipments reached just over $1.3 million.

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