US retail sales projected to exceed $4.33 trillion in 2021: NRF

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently projected that US retail sales will grow between 6.5 per cent and 8.2 per cent to more than $4.33 trillion this year as more individuals get vaccinated and the economy reopens. Early results show that retail sales in 2020 grew by 6.7 per cent over 2019 to $4.06 trillion, nearly doubling its forecast of at least 3.5 per cent growth.

“Despite the continuing health and economic challenges COVID-19 presents, we are very optimistic that healthy consumer fundamentals, pent-up demand and widespread distribution of the vaccine will generate increased economic growth, retail sales and consumer spending,” NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said in a statement.

“From the outset of the pandemic, retailers have gone above and beyond even the most conservative safety guidelines to protect and serve their associates and consumers alike. Retailers are increasingly engaged in working with federal, state and local health officials to distribute and administer the vaccine. This partnership has been key to our economic health throughout the pandemic and will continue this year,” he added.

This figure compares with 3.9 per cent growth in 2019. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total figure, skyrocketed to 21.9 per cent at $969.4 billion as consumers shifted to e-commerce. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The 2020 November-December holiday season accounted for nearly a fifth (19.4 per cent) of overall annual retail sales. Retail sales during this period grew an unexpectedly high 8 per cent to $787.1 billion.

Non-store and other online sales represented $206.9 billion of total holiday sales, up 22.6 per cent over the year before.

NRF forecasts that online sales in 2021 are expected to grow between 18 per cent and 23 per cent to between $1.14 trillion and $1.19 trillion.

NRF expects the overall economy to gain between 220,000 and 300,000 jobs per month in 2021, depending on the pace of the overall economy in the second and third quarters.

Despite the economy’s stalled momentum at the end of last year, NRF forecasts real gross domestic product growth between 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent.

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