Economy Watch: Healthy Retail Sales Growth Ahead in 2018, NRF Predicts

The retail sector should see a boost in sales growth this year, topping 2017's 3.9 percent growth, according to the firm's latest economic forecast.

The National Retail Federation predicts that U.S. retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent in 2018, compared with 2017. That counts online retail, which by itself will increase between 10 percent and 12 percent year-over-year, the organization said in its 2018 economic forecast, which it released Feb. 8.

If those numbers are accurate, that would probably mark a continuing improvement for retail sales. Retail sales grew 3.9 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s preliminary estimate for the year. The number is subject to revision, but it exceeded the NRF’s 2017 forecast for growth, which was between 3.2 percent and 3.8 percent.

“The underpinnings of the economy are very good and consumer spending is at the center of our outlook,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “The push and pull of forces both external and internal to the U.S. economy will continue to provide challenges, but on balance we expect a good year.”

In its calculations, the NRF defines retail sales as most traditional retail categories, including non-store sales, discounters, department stores, grocery stores, specialty stores, and auto parts and accessories stores. It does not include sales at automotive dealers, gasoline stations or restaurants. Non-store sales include online sales, but also kiosks, catalogs, mail order and vending machines.