NRF: Retail sales to rise 4.1% this year

Retail sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Retailers’ registers should be ringing this year.

The nation’s largest retail trade group, the National Retail Federation, predicted Thursday retail sales will climb 4.1 percent in 2015, up from 3.5 percent growth last year. That would be the largest rise since 2011, when sales jumped 5.1 percent coming out of the deep recession.

The Washington, D.C.-based association also projected non-store sales will rise between 7 percent and 10 percent.

“Already facing far fewer obstacles than this time last year in terms of growth opportunities, retailers are optimistic about the potential that exists for healthy growth in retail sales and consumer engagement in 2015,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

The economy appears to have gained some traction after a rocky 2014, said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.

“While Americans are benefiting from a pickup in wages and jobs and gains in the U.S. stock market, economic slack has been reduced,” he said. “We still, however, have a ways to go in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. There are a few wild cards that the retailers will need to keep an eye on, like global economic growth, energy prices and even inflation.”

The trade group expects gross domestic product growth to fall between 2.7 percent and 3.2 percent over last year, job growth should average between 220,000 and 230,000 a month and unemployment should fall to 5 percent by year’s end.

Also, gains in equities and housing have boosted net worth to record levels, helping consumers feel more confident about household spending.

The group said retail sales in January, which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, rose 0.2 percent month-to-month and 3.7 percent year-over-year. Final figures on holiday sales showed 4 percent growth.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Thursday that January retail sales decreased 0.8 percent over the previous month, and increased 3.3 percent year-over-year.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or