NRF: Retail sales to reach at least $5.23 trillion in 2024

More than one billion online shoppers will enter the market during the next 10 years.
Non-store and online sales are expected to grow between 7% and 9% year over year.

U.S. retail sales are expected to rise at a steady but slower pace in 2024 compared to last year. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) on Wednesday forecast that retail sales will increase between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2024, to between $5.23 trillion and $5.28 trillion. That compares with 3.6% annual sales growth of $5.1 trillion in 2023. The 2024 forecast, however, is in line with the 10-year pre-pandemic average annual sales growth of 3.6% (NRF’s calculation of retail sales excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

Non-store and online sales, which are included in the total figure, are expected to grow between 7% and 9% year over year to a range of $1.47 trillion to $1.50 trillion. That compares with non-store and online sales of $1.38 trillion in 2023. 

NRF projects full-year GDP growth of around 2.3%, a slower speed than the 2.5% in 2023, but strong enough to sustain job growth. Inflation prices are also expected to moderate to 2.2% on a year-over-year basis, due to a cooling economy, the labor and product market coming into better balance and retreating housing costs.

“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,” stated NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “The question for 2024 ultimately is, will consumer spending maintain its resilience?”

A tight labor market, with its robust job growth and wage gains fueling consumer spending, is expected to cool in 2024. With the pace of the economy slowing in 2024, NRF expects about 100,000 fewer jobs on average per month compared with 2023 and the unemployment rate to average 4% for the full year. 

Kleinhenz also noted that consumer balance sheets and debt servicing levels remain in good condition. Rising home and stock prices in 2023 likely stimulated greater consumer spending via the so-called wealth effect and this should continue in 2024.  

Several surveys reveal that consumers appear to have a favorable outlook which should also support their willingness to spend. Yet, many consumers are feeling a pinch from tighter credit and inflation.  

The 2024 retail sales forecast is based on economic modeling that considers a variety of indicators including employment, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit, previous retail sales and weather. NRF produces forecasts and other analyses using data from a range of U.S. government sources as well as the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor powered by Affinity Solutions.

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