Economist Forecast Slow Retail Growth for 2016

Retailers can expect sales in 2016 to reflect 2015: continue with the current pattern of slow, steady but not-so exciting growth, according to economists and industry experts who spoke at the National Retail Federation convention in New York City this week.

The nation’s merchants likely will see “sluggish growth for a long time, unless there is something on a global level that shocks the economy,” said Paula Campbell Roberts, executive director, research, at Morgan Stanley, as reported by The Record.

However, some experts noted that uncertainty or unexpected events, such as terrorism or other global problems, or even upheaval caused by the presidential election, will hurt retailers because consumers tend to curb their spending when they are unsure about what lies ahead.

Retail holiday sales — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurant meals — rose 3-percent in 2015, missing NRFs forecast of 3.7-percent sales growth in November and December.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the NRF said in a released statement that missing the forecast could be seen as a disappointing year but retail was faced with multiple challenges this holiday season, “A double whammy of deflation and December weather constricted holiday sales growth as well as consumer spending. The results of December’s retail sales remind us just how significant of an impact unusual weather can have on retail and overall economic activity.”

While the timing is uncertain, Kleinhenz believes there are positive prospects for improvement including a healthy housing market that “should provide some support in spending in various retail sectors” and recent job gains that should help lift income and earnings.