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Retail Sales Seen Healthy This Year

Retail sales will grow between 3.7 and 4.2% in 2017 compared to last year, according to a National Retail Federation forecast.

NRF expects online and other non-store/online sales, which also are included in the overall number, to increase between 8 and 12%.

These numbers exclude automobile, gasoline station and restaurant sales.

Economic growth is likely to be in the range of 1.9 to 2.4%, NRF predicts. It expects an average gain per month of about 160,000 jobs, down slightly from 2016. However, unemployment is expected to drop to 4.6% by the end of the year.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz declares that the “prospects for consumer spending are straightforward – more jobs and more income will result in more spending.” Regardless of consumer sentiment, “the pace of wage growth and job creation dictate spending,” he asserts.

NRF President Matthew Shay isn’t completely sure. “With jobs and income growing and debt relatively low, the fundamentals are in place and the consumer is in the driver’s seat,” he says.

“But this year is unlike any other – while consumers have strength they haven’t had in the past, they will remain hesitant to spend until they have more certainty about policy changes on taxes, trade and other issues being debated in Congress.”

NRF’s monthly Global Port Tracker projects that imports at the nation’s major retail container ports will rise 4.6% during the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

“This is very much in line with what we are forecasting for retail sales and consumer spending this year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold says.

“Retailers try to balance inventories very carefully with demand. So, when retailers import more merchandise, that’s a pretty good indicator of what they are expecting to happen with sales.”

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