The National Retail Federation (NRF) is calling for retail sales, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, to climb between 3.8 and 4.4 percent this year, amounting to as much as $3.84 trillion. That would be less than growth of 4.6 percent in 2018, which the NRF says is its preliminary estimate for retail sales last year, pending the release of December data from the Commerce Department that was stalled from being announced during the government shutdown. In August of last year, the NRF said it expected 2018 retail sales to be up at least 4.5 percent. The NRF reported that online and other nonstore sales were up 10.4 percent in 2018, amounting to $682.8 billion. And the group is calling for the same 10 percent to 12 percent growth online in 2019, or as much as $764.8 billion.
Total Retail's Take: Some welcome news after what has been a rocky start to the new year for the retail industry. While the NRF's 2019 prediction doesn't match its forecast growth rate for 2018 (4.6 percent), it does suggest a positive year for the nation's retailers. Once again, online sales are expected to grow at the greatest rate, helping to support challenged brick-and-mortar retailers. Reasons cited for the somewhat tempered forecast include a potential trade war with China, which could lead to higher pricing for consumers, as well as concerns that the economy could be cooling off. That's not a concern shared by NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
“Consumers are in better shape than any time in the last few years," Kleinhenz said in a company press release. "Most important for the year ahead will be the ongoing strength in the job market, which will support the consumer income and spending that are both key drivers of the economy. 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.”