NRF calls for 3.7 to 4.2 percent annual increase for 2017 retail sales

The NRF is calling for 2017 online and other non-store/online sales (which NRF includes in its over all number) to head up between 8 and 12 percent.

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2017 retail sales could be looking at a decent year should estimates issued today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) stay to form in the coming months.

The NRF is calling for 2017 retail sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, to see an annual gain between 3.7 and 4.2 percent, with online and other non-store/online sales (which NRF includes in its over all number) to head up between 8 and 12 percent.

While not a direct comparison, NRF’s 2017 projection would top the 3.3 percent annual gain in retail sales from 2015 to 2016, based on data issued by the United States Department of Commerce.

“Prospects for consumer spending are straightforward – more jobs and more income will result in more spending,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “Regardless of sentiment, the pace of wage growth and job creation dictate spending. Our forecast represents a baseline for the year, but potential fiscal policy changes could impact consumers and the economy. It seems unlikely that businesses will notably increase investment until tax reform and trade policies are well-defined. It is clear that online sales will continue to expand in 2017 and provide growth for the retail industry. But it is important to realize that virtually every major retailer sells online and many of those sales will be made by discount stores, department stores and other traditional retailers. Retailers sell to consumers however they want to buy, whether it’s in-store, online or mobile.”

The NRF offered up various data points supporting its thesis for retail sales growth in 2017, including:

the economy is expected to gain an average of approximately 160,000 jobs a month, which it said is down slightly from 2016 but consistent with labor market growth;
unemployment is expected to drop to 4.6 percent by the end of the year; and
economic growth is likely to be in the range of 1.9 to 2.4 percent
And it offered up a caveat in that the “forecast is a baseline and does not take into account new fiscal measures pending in Washington.”

That is important to consider when considering, as NRF President Matthew Shay pointed out, that 2016 finished with strong momentum as jobs and income saw growth, coupled with debt staying on the lower side. But the optimism is quelled to a degree, he noted, in that while consumers appear to have the resources to spend more than in the past, there is likely to be some hesitancy until there is more clarity in regards to policy changes regarding taxes, trade, and other issues.

With consumer spending accounting for around two-thirds of all economic activity, that commensurate growth, or projected growth, is contingent on consumers being able to change behavior, or, in other words, consistently spend more. 

“It is hard for consumers to change behavior quickly,” said Chuck Clowdis, Managing Director - Transportation, Economics & Country Risk, for IHS Markit, in a recent interview. 

“There is a lot of pent-up demand and emotional spending of sorts. I think people learned starting in 2008 that they needed to eliminate plastic debt and build up savings. The savings rate of disposable income is always something that needs to be watched.

And he added that in 2005-2006 the savings rate of disposable income hovered around 2-3 percent and since then more recently has climbed as high as 6.5 percent, with consumers saving more of their take home pay than they ever have before.

That is not to dispute that an uptick in consumer spending is not happening at all, instead it is happening without unbridled spending levels that has been previously witnessed.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

Economy · ISM · National Retail Federation · NRF · Retail · · All Topics
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