NRF: January Starts Positive As Data Points To 4.1% 2015 Retail Growth

Looking through the upcoming year, the National Retail Federation expects a faster pace of economic activity. The organization, in its 2015 economic forecast released today, projected 4.1% retail industry sales growth, up from 3.5% in 2015.

NRF pointed out that January retail sales, based on United States Census Bureau findings, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, advanced 0.2% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.7% unadjusted year-over-year. Today’s results confirm holiday sales growth of 4%, NRF maintained.  

NRF noted that retail sales, again excluding automobile, gas station, and restaurant input, will get a particular lift from online and other non-store sources, which it expects to generate a 7% to a 10% sales growth.

NRF pointed out that the 4.1% increase would mark the biggest annual growth since 2011 when retail sales for the year advanced 5.1%.

NRF added that it expects baseline outlook for growth in the economy as measured by GDP to land between 2.7% and 3.2% over last year. In addition, it forecast growth in the labor market that should average between 220,000 to 230,000 new jobs per month throughout the year and a drop in the unemployment rate to 5% by year’s end. Gains in equities and housing have boosted net worth to record levels, which has helped consumers feel more confident about household spending, said NRF.

Additionally, January retail sales released today by the National Retail Federation, also excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.7% unadjusted year-over-year. The results confirm holiday sales growth of 4%, NRF maintained. Overall, according to the Census Bureau, January retail and food services sales decreased 0.8% over the previous month seasonally adjusted, but increased 3.3% unadjusted from the 2013 month. Electronics & Appliance Stores, Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers, Health and Personal Care Stores, and General Merchandise Stores saw modest gains month over month and all retail and food services categories gained year over year except gas stations. The Miscellaneous Store Retailer category saw a particularly strong month over month advance from December, at 2.6%, while, year over year, the biggest advances were in Food Services & Drinking Places, up 11.3%, Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers, up 10%, and Non-store Retailers, up 8.3%.

“Already facing far fewer obstacles than this time last year in terms of growth opportunities, retailers are optimistic about the potential that exists for healthy growth in retail sales and consumer engagement in 2015,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, said in announcing the forecast. “While our outlook for the year ahead is positive, we aren’t quite out of the woods. In order to see continued momentum, we need a commitment from our leaders in Washington to pass legislation that will encourage investment, create jobs and set us on the path towards sustained, long-term economic growth.”

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, said, “The economy appears to finally have gained some real traction and after a somewhat turbulent 2014, we expect to see continued gains in economic activity in the year ahead. While Americans are benefiting from a pickup in wages and jobs, and gains in the U.S. stock market, economic slack has been reduced. We still, however, have a ways to go in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. There are a few wild cards that the retailers will need to keep an eye on, like global economic growth, energy prices and even inflation.”