The National Retail Federation forecasts that retail sales this year will increase between 3.8% and 4.4% to more than $3.8 trillion.
“We believe the underlying state of the economy is sound,” declares NRF President Matthew Shay. “More people are working; they’re making more money, their taxes are lower and their confidence remains high. The biggest priority is to ensure that our economy continues to grow and to avoid self-inflicted wounds. It’s time for artificial problems like trade wars and shutdowns to end, and to focus on prosperity not politics.”
Preliminary estimates show retail sales during 2018 grew 4.6% over 2017 to $3.68 trillion, exceeding NRF’s forecast of 4.5% growth. That includes online and other non-store sales, which were up 10.4% at $682.8 billion. Online is expected to grow in the same 10-12% range again this year.
Growth of between 3.8% and 4.4% would push total 2019 retail sales to between $3.82 trillion and $3.84 trillion. Based on growth of 10-12%, online sales would be between $751.1 billion and $764.8 billion.
“We are not seeing any deterioration in the financial health of the consumer,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says. “Consumers are in better shape than any time in the last few years. Most important for the year ahead will be the ongoing strength in the job market. The bottom line is that the economy is in a good place despite the ups and downs of the stock market and other uncertainties. Growth remains solid.”
NRF expects the overall economy to gain an average of 170,000 jobs per month, down from 220,000 in 2018, and that unemployment – currently at 4% – will drop to 3.5% by the end of the year. Gross domestic product is likely to grow about 2.5% over 2018. Inflation and interest rates also are expected to remain low.