Retail Sales & Consumer Spending Forecast

Economic Forecasts

Consumers Aren’t Afraid

Kiplinger’s latest forecast on retail sales and consumer spending

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GDP 2.6% growth in '19 More »
Jobs Job gains of about 175,000 per month in '19 More »
Interest rates 10-year T-notes at 2.8% by end ’19 More »
Inflation 2.0% in ’19, up from 1.9% in ’18 More »
Business spending Up 5% in ’19 as global growth slows More »
Energy Crude trading from $60 to $65 per barrel in August More »
Housing 5.35 million existing-home sales in ’19, up 0.2% More »
Retail sales Growing 4.3% in ’19 (excluding gas and autos) More »
Trade deficit Widening 7%-8% in ’19 More »

Strong sales in May and June show consumers are far less worried about an economic slowdown than the Federal Reserve is. Consumers will likely stay optimistic unless unemployment rises, which is unlikely to happen this year.

Spending rose a robust 0.7% in June, excluding gasoline. E-commerce and eating out have surged the past two months—two areas that do especially well when consumers are feeling flush.

Good wage growth and low unemployment should mean better retail sales this year. We expect sales, excluding gasoline and autos, to increase 4.3%, a bit lower than 2018’s 4.7% bump. E-commerce sales will continue rising aggressively, probably by 14%—the 10th straight year of double-digit increases. In-store sales will rise, though only by about 2%.

Restaurant sales are picking up. Over the past year, sales have roughly mirrored the stock market’s performance. The stock market has risen 20% in 2019 and has likely contributed to consumers’ willingness to eat out. But expect 2019 sales growth to be 4.7%, down a bit from 2018’s strong 6.3%.

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Department store sales keep sliding. Stores continue closing, especially at mall locations. Sears and Kmart will shutter 120 stores this year; J.C. Penney, 27. Other store closings: Payless Shoe, 2,100; Gymboree, 800; Dressbarn, 650; and Charlotte Russe, 512.

Source: Department of Energy, Price Statistics