NRF Forecasts Slower Sales in 2013

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation on Monday said it was forecasting 3.4% retail sales growth in 2013, saying consumer uncertainty, higher taxes and a slow economic recovery would result in decrease from the 4.2% growth in 2012.

Shop.org, NRF’s digital division, expects online sales in 2013 to grow between 9% and 12%. Online sales in 2012 during the months of November and December last year grew 11.1%.

Retail industry sales according to NRF include most traditional retail categories including auto parts and accessories stores, non-store categories, discounters, department stores, grocery stores and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

The subdued forecast comes on the heels of a holiday season that went head-to-head with Washington’s political wrangling over fiscal concerns, shifting consumers’ spending plans downward.  In the end, holiday sales in 2012 grew 3%, NRF said.

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“What we witnessed during the holiday season is an indication of what we are likely to see in 2013. Consumers read troubling economic headlines every day and look at their bottom lines at the end of the month, and they don’t like what they see,” Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of NRF, said in a statement. “Pushing fiscal policy decisions down the road will lead to even greater uncertainty, and will continue to impact consumers’ desire and ability to spend on discretionary items. The [Obama] administration and Congress need to pursue and enact policies that lead to growth and economic expansion, or it could be another challenging year for retailers and consumers alike.”

NRF said it based its forecast on the expectation of modest gains in income and unemployment, slower inflation than 2012, and consumer confidence weighed down by increased payroll taxes. It expected the housing market to continue its recovery and allowed for the possibility consumer confidence would improve as the pace of the recovery accelerates in the second half of the year.

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