The 2018 Select US Importers Chart exemplifies what every US shopper already knows: there is a wider assortment of goods in our stores and at our doors – courtesy of e-commerce – than at any time in human history. We are moving towards a notion of the “Smart Home” powered by a vast supply chain moving goods large and small, cheap and expensive, and some might argue useful and trivial. But U.S. imports satisfy far more than the retail sector. Virtually every facet of the American lifestyle; from Air-conditioning to parts for the Zamboni ice re-surfacer owes some measure of debt to the often-unseen processes which make these imports part of our daily lives.
There are of course the mega-retailers like the ubiquitous Walmart, Target and Lowes that habitually use third parties and confidential contracts to move their products. As a result, these giants appear to be much smaller importers than is the real case. For example, Walmart likely passed the million TEU mark years ago and other mega-retailers are likely moving closer to that threshold as well. Industrial conglomerates like Hyundai when measured holistically, also move well over a million TEUs annually but are hard to break into constituent sections. Still other companies moving predominately “bulk” style commodities are importing the “equivalent” to a million TEU but do not appear as ocean imports.
Finally, the e-commerce companies like Amazon by the nature of their supply chain only show a fraction of the goods actually shipped. It’s likely that this trend in e-commerce will rapidly rise as it is adopted as a model by Amazon wannabes.
Ultimately, the majority of U.S. importers are far more modest in size, and their diversity in freight mirrors the nation’s demand for goods and ever changing supply chains.
The information in the charts was derived from Datamyne’s excellent system (http://www.datamyne.com). The data was assembled with care, but as a caveat all information is wrought with so many variables that the final result should be viewed with prudence.
The wheels of commerce go round and round
Rightly, much of the discussion regarding U.S. imports has centered on the impact of e-commerce – the Amazon effect. Most of the talk is the impact that e-commerce will have on brick and mortar ventures like Walmart, Target or Costco. Will e-commerce be paradigmatic or simply more a shift in how business is conducted, rather than a determiner of who will grab a seat in a retailer game of musical chairs.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the impact that autos (and light trucks) have on ocean imports. Add in recreational vehicles and the scale is enormous for America. It’s estimated that there are 269.7 million cars and light trucks on the road in the United States against a population of just over 323 million. Add in the various forms of recreational vehicles and there is literally something for everyone in the U.S.
In our chart, there are twenty-five auto/light truck related importers. This total does not include some conglomerates like Hyundai whose numbers are difficult to break out. What is significant is the number of tire companies that appear in the data. The data shows eleven tire companies (see Auto Related chart) importing between 48,000 TEU (Hankook) to 7660 TEU (Continental Tire). The auto part business is robust with Keystone Automotive and Mobius both tallying around 30,000 TEU of auto parts.
|Auto Related Imports|
|Toyota Tsusho America||NY||New York||Auto Parts||62423|
|Mercedes Benz Usa||GA||Atlanta||Auto||50133|
|BMW Manufacturing Co||SC||Greer||Auto||49520|
|Michelin North America||SC||Greenville||Tires||48283|
|Honda North Americas||OH||Raymond||Auto||44879|
|Bridgestone Americas Tire||TN||Nashville||Tires||33258|
|Keystone Automotive Tn||TN||Nashville||Auto Parts||30846|
|Mobis Parts||CA||Fountain Valley||Auto Parts||29648|
|Nissan North America||TN||Franklin||Auto||29533|
|Subaru of America Inc||NJ||Cherry Hill||Auto||22912|
|Yokohama Tire Corp||CA||Santa Ana||Tires||20476|
|Giti Tire Usa Ltd||CA||R. Cucamonga||Tires||19304|
|Toyo Tires Usa Corp||CA||Cypress||Tires||19171|
|Prime Wheel Corporation||CA||Gardena||Auto Parts||16690|
|Volkswagen of America||VA||Herndon||Auto||15296|
|Yamaha Motor Corp||CA||Cypress||Motor Parts||14515|
|Pirelli Tire LLC||GA||Rome||Tires||13879|
|Cooper Tire Rubber Co||OH||Findlay||Tires||12272|
|Nexen Tire America Inc||CA||Diamond Bar||Tires||11571|
|Kia Motors America Inc||CA||Irvine||Auto||9708|
The movement of fresh produce is a staple import. Dole Food imported an estimated 277,792 TEU worth of fresh fruit and produce - number one on our list. Dole Food wasn’t far behind, notching over 264,600 TEU in fresh fruit and produce, followed by Del Monte at nearly 168,000 TEU. The Sol Marketing Company in Pompano Beach, Florida added nearly another 41,000 TEU to the sector. The increased number of TEU in the fresh fruit/produce sector reflects two industry trends. The first is the shift to reefers over temperature controlled ships. The second is a much wider business in fresh produce that is pulling new product in from nations like Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations as well as cargo from the more traditional sources such as South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Home sweet e-home
In perusing the list of importers, it’s hard not to see the influence the “home” has on the numbers. For example, take furniture. Ikea is a furniture giant with nearly 168,000 import TEU.
RTG (Rooms-To-Go) is over 160,000 TEU, COA (Coaster of America) 38,672 TEU, Arauco Wood Products just over 38,000 and Euromarket Design, better known as Crate & Barrel just over 19,000 TEU while California based Living Spaces Furniture checked in at well over 11,000 TEU. In some respects, pure furniture imports really don’t tell the story as most furniture imports are part of a much larger segment of mega-retailers like Walmart and Target.
But a home is not a home without home repairs and companies like Home Depot and Lowes have become mega-retailers based on the DIY (do-it-yourself) phenomenon in the U.S. market. Both Lowes at over 108,000 TEU and Home Depot at 135,000 TEU are among the largest U.S. import companies. Another beneficiary of the homecoming for home goods, has been the home appliance industry. Electrolux, Sunbeam Products, Bissell Homecare and Haier all are major importers of home appliances – and the TJ Maxx family of companies opened their own entry to the sector applicably named HomeGoods.
Of course, the elephant in the room, is e-commerce giant Amazon which at this writing is still searching for a location for its “other” headquarters. The company is transfiguring the entire idea of what a supply chain should be and how to source and deliver product. And back to imports A-to-Z or more to the point, Air-conditioning to Zamboni. While Zamboni is as some careful observers might note, an exporter of these master of the ice machines, the Zamboni model 545’s engine is powered by a Hyundai – even the exports are imports.