It’s no secret that retail sales tend to pick up in the run-up to the Christmas season, but 2013 could see a return of even greater confidence to the US retail market.

This is according to a July statement by the National Retail Federation (NRF), which made the prediction based on an anticipated rise in merchandise imports later this year.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the US-based organisation anticipates that by the end of this month, import volume at America’s main retail container ports is set to experience a “modest” year-on-year rise of 1.1 per cent – but volume is likely to pick up significantly at the end of the northern hemisphere summer.

It can be challenging to use cargo numbers to imply a direct correlation to retail sales or employment, as these are measured by the number of containers and their overall volume, rather than merchandise value. However, the NRF suggests that they can provide useful insight into general patterns of what retailers are expecting in the months to come.

According to NRF vice-president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold, import figures have been relatively flat for the past few months, but “stronger increases” are expected in the relatively near future.

He said: “With the economy recovering slowly, retailers have been cautious with imports this summer but it’s clear that they expect an upturn later in the year.”

Earlier this month, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz revealed that sporting goods, clothing and building supplies were among the standout performers in the American retail sector during the month of June.

He also revealed that 37,000 new jobs were added in the American retail trade – a sign of slow but emerging confidence in the sector.