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National association optimistic on sales growth for 2021

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Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Retail sales in the U.S. could rise between 6.5% and 8.2% to more than $4.3 trillion this year as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and the economy reopens, according to the National Retail Federation.

NRF president Matthew Shay said the economy is expected to see its fastest growth in over two decades.

“The health of the economy we think is very solid, and we believe with additional distribution and administration of the vaccine that we will see very robust growth over the course of next year,” Shay said.

The trade group further expects that as Americans become more comfortable traveling again, more money will be spent on services, which normally accounts for nearly three-fourths of consumer spending.

The NRF expects the overall economy to gain between 220,000 and 300,000 jobs per month this year, something Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, believes is key for economic growth.

“A lot of people were laid off and the more we can open the economy back up, we can get some of those people back to work,” Karr said. “That will be important as well to how much disposable income and confidence the consumer has.”

Karr notes that some states have opened up their economies more so than Illinois, so future sales figureslocally will depend on how quickly the state can reopen.

Early results show that retail sales in 2020 grew 6.7% over 2019 to $4.06 trillion, nearly doubling the NRF’s forecast of at least 3.5% growth, which at the time did not account for the impact of a global pandemic. That was boosted by nearly 22% growth in online sales.

Despite the economy’s stalled momentum at the end of 2020, the NRF forecasts real GDP growth between 4.5% and 5%.

“Our principal assumption is that the vaccine will be effective and permits accelerated growth during the mid-year,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Kleinhenz added that this year is already shaping up to see continued savings by consumers, record-high stock valuations, escalating home prices and record-low interest rates, all of which are contributing factors toward the projections for a robust economic rebound.