National retail sales are expected to grow between 3.5% and 4.1% this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Two of its top officials conducted a media briefing on Wednesday.
“The economy is in a very good place,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s President and CEO.
Shay cited several foundations for his forecast:
- Interest rates for borrowing are low while consumer confidence is strong
- Personal debt obligations are at 30-year lows
- Inflation is under control while gasoline prices remain relatively low
- A current wave of home refinancing should free up additional spending money for consumers
- Consumers are feeling job security with a national jobless rate of 3.5% while the economy is expected to generate 150,000 jobs each month, on average.
- All signs currently point to the record-long economic expansion, now at 127 consecutive months, to continue.
At the outset, Shay and NRF economist Jack Kleinhenz addressed the COVID – 19 global virus outbreak as a potential economic threat.
The Centers for Disease Control report that the disease in the U.S. is well-controlled so far, Shay said. The additional time to prepare the U.S. has had following the outbreak in China should help to keep the illness under control, with minimal impact here, he added.
Growth in personal consumer spending, while strong, may moderate this year, Kleinhenz said. Compared to last year’s 2.6% rate of growth, NRF projects a 2.3% growth rate this year, he said.
In answer to media inquiries, Kleinhenz said it is premature to predict the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy. Retailers are continually seeking efficiencies in their supply chains, which should help them adjust to any production shortfalls from China, said Shay.
During the past 18 months, including uncertainties related to the trade war with China, Shay said he has been impressed with the resourcefulness shown by retailers to ensure a reliable supply of merchandise. Its reliability, he noted, is the best it has been in the past 20 years.