US retail industry sales will grow by 3.8-4.4 per cent in 2018 over last year and online and other non-store sales, which are included in the overall number, are expected to increase by 10-12 per cent, according to the economic forecast for this year by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants. Retail sales grew 3.9 per cent in 2017 over 2016 to $3.53 tr, the US Census bureau’s preliminary estimate for the year shows. The number is subject to revision but exceeded NRF’s forecast for growth between 3.2 and 3.8 per cent, according to a report.

The overall economy is expected to gain an average of 163,000 jobs a month, down slightly from 2017 but consistent with labour market growth. Unemployment is expected to drop to 3.9 per cent by the end of the year. Gross domestic product growth is likely to be 2.5-3 per cent. “Despite headlines to the contrary, the retail industry is strong, growing and meeting consumer demand with the products they want at the prices they expect and the shopping experience they want to have, online or in store. With consumer confidence high, unemployment low and wages growing, there is every reason to believe that retail sales will be robust throughout the year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Retail industry sales as defined by NRF include most traditional retail categories including non-store sales, discounters, department stores, grocery stores, speciality stores, and auto parts and accessories stores but exclude sales at automotive dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants. Non-store sales include online sales, kiosks, catalogs, mail order and vending machines and are included in the overall number.