NRF: 2017 could be a good year for retail...if Washington doesn’t screw it up

Forecasts 2017 sales gain of 3.7% to 4.2%, unless policy changes disrupt

Washington – The National Retail Federation issued a fairly rosy forecast for 2017 retail sales and employment levels, but warned that policies coming out of Washington could hamper growth.

NRF president and ceo Matthew Shay described the economy as being on firm ground, with jobs growing and consumer debt relatively low.

“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,” he added.

The retail association today forecast 2017 year-over-year retail sales gains of 3.7% to 4.2%. That figure for retail industry sales excludes automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants. Online and non-store sales, part of the total forecast, are expected to climb 8.0% to 12.0%.

Without explicitly citing the Border Adjustment Tax, NRF warned that Congress should resist changes to policies, rules or regulations that would result in raising the cost of consumer goods.

“Prospects for consumer spending are straightforward – more jobs and more income will result in more spending,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “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.”

Four key points underscore NRF’s forecast:

  • The economy is expected to gain an average of approximately 160,000 jobs a month. The number is down slightly from 2016 but consistent with labor market growth.
  • Unemployment is expected to drop to 4.6% by the end of the year.
  • Economic growth is likely to be in the range of 1.9% to 2.4%.

The association reiterated that those stats do not take into account new fiscal measures pending in Washington.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

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