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AJ: US importers epitomize diversity of products
The Select U.S. Importers chart epitomizes what every U.S. consumer already knows – there is a wide diversity of products heading for our stores and with e-commerce, our doors, like never before.

The mega-retailers like the ubiquitous Wal-Mart, Target and Lowes often use third parties and confidential contracts, which portrays these giants as much smaller importers than is the case. For example, Wal-Mart likely passed the million TEU mark years ago and other mega-retailers are likely moving closer to that threshold as well.

But the vast majority of U.S. importers are far more modest in size and their diversity mirrors the nation’s economy.

What Drives an Economy?

With a cursory view of the chart, the one sector that stands out is autos. Tire companies are continuing to fill inbound shipments. Hankook, for example, registered over 50,000 TEUs, while Michelin almost hit that mark. Nearly all the major auto makers have huge supporting shipments for their autos and related businesses. Automotive parts are also well represented. Companies like Mobis and Keystone Automotive both are around 30,000 TEUs worth of shipments.

Although automotive is significant, it’s hard to overlook imports of fresh produce. Dole Food has imports equivalent over 230,000 TEUs and Chiquita over 160,000, to lead the sector. Del Monte notched over 50,000 TEUs and Sol Group almost the same, reflecting the high demand for fresh produce.

Similar to produce, the food and beverage shipments are a major import segment in the US. Heineken, Anheuser Busch, Nestle Waters and Red Bull all are top importers.

Consumer electronics have for the last couple of decades been a major contributor to U.S. import totals. LG Electronics and Samsung both accounted for over 120,000 TEUs. Long time industry staples like Sunbeam, Electrolux and Homelite also are still important contributors to the sector.

Another landmark consumer oriented segment is furniture. The mega-furniture retailer, IKEA tallied a remarkable 138,000 TEUs but had plenty of company. RTG Furniture, Arauco and Bob’s Discount all had over 30,000 TEUs worth of furniture imports.

Discount retailers are a mainstay and while e-commerce has had an impact, many discount and specialty retailers have continued to post strong import totals. K-Mart/Sears heads the pack with just over 50,000 TEUs but Dollar Tree, Dollar General and J.C. Penney all posted over 30,000 TEUs. The apparel and shoe retailers follow close on the heels of the discount segment. For instance, Hanes Brand tallied over 42,000 TEUs, while up and coming Under Armour Inc was over 18,000.