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U.S. Retailers Expect Lower Shipping Costs

U.S. retailers are hoping to cut shipping costs when they negotiate long-term contracts with ocean carriers later this month, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: Following a surge in rates last year, some firms are expecting to slash what they pay for ocean freight “by half or more, which in turn could allow retailers to slow or stop price increases for goods.”

  • “The average contract cost of shipping a container from China to the U.S. West Coast was $2,618 as of Feb. 9, according to Xeneta, a Norway-based transportation data firm, reflecting lower freight demand as retailers cut orders and consumer spending continues to decline.”
  • On Feb. 26, many retail executives will start contract negotiations at the Journal of Commerce’s annual TPM conference in Long Beach, California.

New year, new talks: “Importers expect this year’s contract talks to be different. Many retailers have pulled back on orders while working through a backlog of inventory. As a result, cargo volumes are weak and ocean carriers are scrambling to fill space on ships.”

  • Though they’re still facing elevated labor, energy and raw materials costs, retailers say the lower ocean shipping rates they expect from the upcoming talks will help steady prices. 
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