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NRF Expects ‘Moderate but Steady’ Retail Sales Growth in 2024

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects retail sales to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2024.

That forecast is in line with the 2023 annual sales growth and the 10-year pre-pandemic average annual sales growth — both of which were 3.6%, the trade association said in a Wednesday (March 30) press release.

“The resiliency of consumers continues to power the American economy, and we are confident there will be moderate but steady growth through the end of the year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the release.

The NRF also expects GDP growth to slow to 2.3%, inflation to moderate to 2.2%, and the tight labor market to cool, with unemployment averaging 4%, according to the release.

The association also expects the “wealth effect” seen in 2023 to continue in 2024, driven by rising home and stock prices that stimulate greater consumer spending.

“The economy is primarily supported by consumers who have shown much greater resilience than expected, and it’s hard to be bearish on the consumer,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the release.

In another forecast for 2024, the NRF said that non-store and online sales, which are included in the total retail sales figure, are expected to grow between 7% and 9%.

The association also sees consumers spending more money on taking care of themselves, with the February CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor data showing 11% year-over-year growth on personal care and health, according to an “NRF State of Retail & the Consumer 2024 Key Takeaways” issued in conjunction with the press release.

Another trend highlighted by NRF is that online marketplaces have “grown exponentially.” These marketplaces, which feature multiple sellers offering goods on one consumer-facing platform, are becoming “a key part of the true omnichannel universe that is modern retail,” the trade association said.

PYMNTS Intelligence has found that shoppers’ expectations regarding retail prices are growing more positive. The percentage of consumers anticipating ongoing inflation in retail prices in the next 12 months decreased from 64% in January 2023 to 57% in January 2024, according to “Consumers Cautiously Spend More Amid Lower Inflation.”