Retail sales growth might not be as robust this year, with trade, government shutdown concerns - Southern Business Review

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Retail sales growth might not be as robust this year, with trade, government shutdown concerns

U.S. retail sales in 2019 could climb between 3.8 and 4.4 percent, "despite threats from an ongoing trade war, the volatile stock market and the effects of the government shutdown," according to a report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation.


That would be less than growth of 4.6 percent in 2018, which 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. NRF in August of last year said it expected 2018 retail sales to be up at least 4.5 percent.


This year, NRF says retail sales should amount to more than $3.8 trillion — excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

It said online and other non-store sales were up 10.4 percent, amounting to $682.8 billion, last year, and NRF is calling for the same 10 to 12 percent growth online in 2019.


There are a number of uncertainties at play in the retail industry today that could impede some of this growth, though.


A pending trade war with China has many companies on their toes, not knowing if another wave of tariffs could go into effect later this year on goods like cotton-based apparel. There's fear that the U.S. economy is starting to cool off, which could lead to shoppers pulling back on spending.


"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," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. "The bottom line is that the economy is in a good place despite the ups and downs of the stock market and other uncertainties."