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National Retail Federation Forecasts 2019 US Holiday Sales Growth of 3.8%–4.2%

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Coresight Research

Key Points

The National Retail Federation (NRF) released its 2019 US holiday forecast.

  • The NRF expects spending in November and December to increase by 3.8%-4.2% year over year, taking total sales to between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion.
  • The NRF’s forecast aligns with Coresight Research’s estimate of 4% growth for November and December.
  • The NRF’s 2019 forecast is above the five-year historical holiday average of 3.7.
  • The solid forecast reflects that the US economy is continuing to grow and that consumer spending is the primary engine behind the growth, according to Matthew Shay, NRF President and CEO.
  • The impacts of tariffs on holiday spending are unknown, as some merchandise was subject to tariffs that took effect September 1, and other products will have tariffs applied on December 15.

Click here to read Coresight’s coverage on US holiday retail and gain key retail insights for 2019 and prior years.

On October 3, the NRF released its 2019 US holiday forecast, for November and December retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants: It expects sales to increase by 3.8%–4.2% year over year, taking total sales to $727.9–$720.89 billion, up from $701.2 billion in the 2018 holiday season. The NRF forecast is in line with Coresight Research’s expectations of 4% growth in retail sales in November and December.

The NRF forecasts online and other nonstore sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion, up from $146.5 billion last year.

Source: US Census Bureau/NRF

 

The 2019 forecast is above the five-year average of 3.7% and above last year’s increase of 2.1%. The NRF stated the forecast reflected that the US economy is continuing to grow and consumer spending remains the primary engine behind that growth. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said that while there has been a slowdown brought on by uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric, consumers are in good financial shape and retailers expect a strong holiday season.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said that we are in unprecedented times against a backdrop of 124 months of economic growth. He said that while there are many moving parts that make predictions difficult, current economic data and the recent momentum of the economy with job growth and higher wages mean that there is more money in consumers’ pockets.

The impacts of tariffs on holiday spending are unknown, as some merchandise was subject to tariffs that took effect September 1, and other products will have tariffs applied on December 15. Retailers are trying to mitigate the impact on pricing, and it will vary by company and product. Small business may be forced to raise prices. Coresight Research survey data show that almost six in 10 US holiday shoppers are concerned about tariffs causing prices to rise on holiday gifts.

The NRF forecasts that retailers will hire 530,000–590,000 seasonal workers this holiday period, which compares to 554,000 last year. On the same day the NRF released its forecast, Macy’s announced that it plans to hire 80,000 seasonal workers for the 2019 holiday, the same numbers as in 2018.

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