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The National Retail Federation lifted its sales forecast this week, saying that retail sales will increase at least 4.5 percent over last year. The trade association credited tax reform and positive economic conditions for the boost.
Washington—The National Retail Federation has revised its retail sales growth prediction for 2018, upping the number from a 3.8 -4.4 percent gain to an increase of 4.5 percent, minimum.

The NRF credited tax reform and positive economic conditions for the boost to its original year-over-year sales prediction. (The NRF’s figure does not take automobiles, gas stations or restaurants into account.)

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF, said in a media release: “Higher wages, gains in disposable income, a strong job market and record-high household net worth have all set the stage for very robust growth in the nation’s consumer-driven economy.

“Tax reform and economic stimulus have created jobs and put more money in consumers’ pockets, and retailers are seeing it in their bottom line. We knew this would be a good year, but the first half turned out to be even better than expected.”

So far, retail sales have increased 4.8 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2018 and are up 4.4 percent in the latest three-month average.

Earlier in the year, the NRF predicted that gross domestic product would increase 2.5 to 3 percent; now it says that the figure should fall at the higher end of that range.

The organization expressed concern, however, over recently imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum and goods imported from China.

While advocates of such policies believe that higher taxes on foreign imports will help bolster domestic industries, the NRF warned of the potential to negatively affect consumer confidence.

“We don’t want to see these economic gains derailed by protectionist trade policy,” Shay said. “With retailers ramping up imports and stocking their warehouses before most of the proposed tariffs will take effect, an immediate impact on prices on consumer goods is unlikely, but that won’t last for long.

“And just the mere talk of tariffs negatively impacts consumer and business confidence, leading to a decline in spending. It’s time to replace tariffs and talk of trade wars with diplomacy and policies that strengthen recent gains, not kill them.”

According to the NRF’s Global Port Tracker report, imports have reached record highs this summer, as retailers import what they can before tariffs are implemented.

While the NRF ultimately maintains an optimistic outlook for the year, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said that uncertainty surrounding the trade war and higher-than-expected inflation due in part to increased oil prices could make consumers “cautious” come this fall.

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