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Drop in U.S. Toys’ Imports at 9% sends alarming bells

Toys imports into the United States tumbled 9 percent year-over-year in September, as the country’s retailers apparently chose caution over Christmas cheer heading into the 2011 holiday season, according to figures from The Journal of Commerce/PIERS.

The drop in container volume, most of it from China, was the eighth straight for toys coming into the United States and a strong sign that the nation’s stores are concerned with figures showing waning consumer confidence and opting to keep inventories lean
rather than face deep-discount sales.

The 60,616 20-foot-equivalent units arriving at ports in September, according to measurements by PIERS, marked a 7.6 percent year-to-date drop – or 30,430 fewer containers – from the same period last year.

“There is a strong inverse correlation between toys imports volume (in 20-foot equivalent units) and toys import prices over the last seven years,” said Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. “When toys import prices increase, the tendency for demand is to decline … 74 percent of the time.”

Of the 2011 year-to-date overall inbound toy shipments, 89 percent originated in China (including Hong Kong), where labor and material costs are on the rise as the U.S. dollar value against the Yuan decreases.

Although China’s market share is down two percentage points from 2010 and toy shipments from Vietnam have grown 82 percent between 2001 and 2010, China’s stronger infrastructure will keep any sourcing shift away from the country small and slow,
Moreno said.

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