U.S. retail sales are expected to rise between 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent, topping $3.9 trillion. However, the coronavirus could put all of that in jeopardy, CNBC reported. There were other shortcomings on the horizon, though, such as the tumult of a lingering trade war, and an upcoming presidential election.
National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said that, despite those issues, the country's record-long economic expansion seemed to be continuing. He added that the coronavirus is a "wild card" that can't be controlled, which could throw a monkey wrench into the estimations.
The NRF clarified that its 2020 forecast was made under the assumption that the coronavirus does not blossom into a global epidemic. Yet, other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, are already feeling effects of the coronavirus. The NRF said that business confidence and overall retail sales this year could take a hit if factory closures from the virus continue.
The coronavirus has killed at least 2,771 people, and infected more than 80,000. It recently spread to the U.S. and around 40 other countries within a matter of months, spurred primarily by air travel.
Nestlé warned its employees to avoid traveling for business reasons for the next month to keep them from contracting or spreading the coronavirus. The Swiss company, which makes Kit Kats and other candy bars, said it shares a global concern over the coronavirus. Nestlé employs more than 291,000 people worldwide, and is one of the first multinational corporations to speak to their employees so decisively amid the global virus outbreak. Its measure extends to March 15, at which point the retail company plans to review its options.
Coca-Cola spoke out as well, but only took the step of restricting non-essential travel to the Asia-Pacific region and Italy, where the virus has also had a debilitating effect. The retail, company characterized non-essential travel as anything that can be conducted by phone or video conference, as opposed to in-person conferences.
Procter & Gamble has advised its employees against traveling if they feel sick or are worried about traveling.