Retail Sales Forecast To Increase in 2017, NRF Says

Business will be good in 2017, according to a forecast released Feb. 8 by the National Retail Federation, a prominent Washington, D.C., trade group.

Retail-industry sales are predicted to grow between 3.7 percent and 4.2 percent this year over 2016. However, the retail business might be rankled by unpredictable consumer behavior, said Matthew Shay, NRF’s chief executive officer and president.

“With jobs and income growing and debt relatively low, the fundamentals are in place and the consumer is in the driver’s seat,” Shay said. “But this year is unlike any other—while consumers have strength they haven’t had in the past, they will remain hesitant to spend until they have more certainty about policy changes on taxes, trade and other issues being debated in Congress.”

Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, also warned that federal policy shifts could shake up the forecast.

“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,” he said.

Other forecasts have predicted growth for the wider economy in 2017. In December, the UCLA Anderson School of Management released an outlook that predicted economic growth to increase 3 percent for four consecutive quarters following $500 billion in tax cuts. The tax cuts are expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2017.