Small doses of economic optimism

By Jeff Berman · September 13, 2011

With all the noise out there about the economy—whether it be lack of growth, a dim outlook, and sluggish demand (all of which are occurring in one form or another)—it often is easy to overlook some of the good, or positive, things, which actually are occurring.

Now, I know I am fully guilty of writing about the negative effects of the economy, especially in recent weeks, in this space. I don’t write about those things because I want to necessarily; I write about those things, because they are the things happening at that time. Nothing entirely scientific there at all.

This time, though, I come to you with some good economic news…or rather what could be good economic news, depending on how things play out in the coming weeks and months.

One thing that got me thinking about this was a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, which stated that there are several signs intact pointing to a solid holiday season. That, of course, would mean good news for shippers and carriers and 3PLs all around.

As we all know, consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of all economic activity. That is a staggering number. That number has been ingrained in my mind for literally years and makes you realize how hard things have been and still are for businesses and consumers. There is no way around it at all.

But I digress—back to the LA Times article. The article observed that the chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers is estimating that sales will rise 3.5 percent for November and December combined. That is a fairly decent number, but it pales to the 4.4 percent hike over the same period in 2010, which represented the best holiday results since 2006.

OK-so it may end up not being as good as it was a year ago, but it still is respectable and we also need to remember that 2010 comps are up against an anemic 2009 so there is that.

Another positive indicator was August edition of the Port Tracker Report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. The report stated that year-over-year gains are expected again this fall as retailers begin to stock up for the holiday season.

The Port Tracker report also noted that there is no indication that shippers will have difficulty finding containers on key trade lanes, which is a far cry from a year ago when containers were in short supply and retail sales numbers were at even lower levels than they are now.

What’s more, back to school shopping in August appears to have delivered a nice little jolt to retail sales (and hopefully tonnage when August numbers come out in the coming weeks). The LA Times report explained that even with Hurricane Irene and troubles on Wall Street, sales at major chain stores were up 4.4 percent annually in August, according to a survey of 23 retailers conducted by Thomson Reuters.

Along with what could shape up to be a better-than-expected holiday shopping season is the recent news from the Department of Commerce about the July trade deficit coming in better than was expected, hitting $44.8 billion—its lowest tally in three months.

The big surprise in this data, though, was the 3.6 percent gain in exports to $178 billion. With all the talk about the White House goal of doubling exports by 2015 not being realistic—and maybe that still holds true—this record-high news for exports is certainly welcome news and a possible sign that things are heading in the right direction.

While the economy has a long way to go to be sure, it is nice to at least see some potentially promising signs of growth. It is likely things could get even worse before they get better but it is good to see some promising signs all the same.


About the Author

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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