National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates released a Global Port Tracker report showing a 7 percent increase of imports at major U.S. retail container ports in 2017 over 2016. Increased retail sales and a strong holiday season are cited as the reasons for retailers importing more merchandise to meet demand.

NRF VP for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold expects growth to continue in 2018. “Retail had a strong year fueled by growing wages, higher employment, and a boost in consumer confidence,” he said.

NRF forecast that 2017 retail sales would grow between 3.2 and 3.8 percent over 2016 and that holiday sales would grow between 3.6 and 4 percent.

While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the number of containers is counted, it provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.