Even as retail continues to grapple with a myriad of challenges, the outlook for the year looks positive.
The National Retail Federation on Thursday projected retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017. That healthy performance is expected to be fueled by a 10 percent to 12 percent acceleration in online and non-store sales, excluding gas, cars and restaurants.
Powered in part by a holiday season that beat expectations, sales for 2017 outpaced NRF’s 3.2% to 3.8% forecast. Actual sales, according to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, grew by 3.9% in 2017 to $3.53 trillion.
“Despite headlines to the contrary, the retail industry is strong, growing and meeting consumer demand with the products they want at the prices they expect and the shopping experience they want to have, online or in store,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “With consumer confidence high, unemployment low and wages growing, there is every reason to believe that retail sales will be robust throughout the year.”
[Read more about the year’s economic forecast: Boosted by Tax Reform, Economic Trends Will Continue in Retailers’ Favor]
Citing strong economic indicators—including unemployment as low as 3.9% and GDP growth up by as much as 2.5 to 3 percent—NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said that he’s optimistic about 2018. Further, he credits Washington with providing the industry with a welcome boost. “And as the retail industry continues to transform, retailers will leverage the new tax plan to invest in their employees, stores and new formats that engage with the ever-evolving and demanding consumer,” he said.