by Brian Lipton

NRFlogoThe National Retail Federation is projecting retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) in 2016 will increase 3.1 percent, higher than the 10-year average of 2.7 percent. The NRF also expects non-store sales in 2016 to grow between 6 and 9 percent.

In addition, the NRF predicts that economic is likely to be in the range of 1.9 to 2.4 percent in 2016, and that unemployment should drop to 4.6 percent by year’s end.

“Wage stagnation is easing, jobs are being created and consumer confidence remains steady, so despite the headwinds our economy faces from international developments — particularly in China — we think 2016 will be favorable for growth in the retail industry,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “All of the experts agree that the consumer is in the driver’s seat and steering our economic recovery. The best thing the government can do is stay out of the way, stop proposing rules and regulations that create hurdles toward greater capital investment and focus on policies that help retailers provide increased income and job stability for their employees.”

Added NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz: “Despite the volatility, the economy continued to reduce unemployment, raise wages and actually increase real GDP by 2.4 percent. Lower gas prices are creating more discretionary income to save, pay down debt and spend on travel, eating out and personal services. Retailers have benefited as well, and continue to find ways to compete and succeed in a very cost-conscious environment.”