Retail Sales & Consumer Spending Forecast

Economic Forecasts

A Seesaw Pattern to Consumer Sales This Spring

Kiplinger’s latest forecast on retail sales and consumer spending


GDP 2.6% growth in '19 More »
Jobs Job gains near 180,000 per month in '19 More »
Interest rates 10-year T-notes at 2.8% by end ’19 More »
Inflation Up 2.2% in ’19 More »
Business spending Up 5% in ’19 as global growth slows More »
Energy Crude trading from $60 to $65 per barrel in August More »
Housing 5.35 million existing-home sales in ’19, up 0.2% More »
Retail sales Growing 3.7% in ’19 (excluding gas and autos) More »
Trade deficit Widening 7%-8% in ’19 More »

Excluding autos and gas, retail sales declined a modest 0.2 percent in April, following a March surge. Motor-vehicle sales continued their two-steps-forward-one-step-back pattern by retreating from March’s peak. These sales will likely flatten the rest of the year. Building materials have also followed a seesaw pattern this spring, with a decline in April.

Clothing and furniture purchases were flat in April after big bounces in March, but sporting goods and electronics are languishing below last year’s levels. One bright spot was a 0.7% rise in department store sales.

Good wage growth and low unemployment should mean decent, but perhaps below-average, retail sales growth this year. We expect growth of 3.7% for sales excluding gasoline and autos, lower than 2018’s 4.6% rate. E-commerce sales will continue rising aggressively, probably by 10% — the tenth straight year of double-digit growth. In-store sales will increase, though only at about a 2% rate.

Restaurant sales are a puzzle: They peaked last July and declined through December, but have since resumed rising, with four monthly gains in a row. Whether this growth trend will continue remains to be seen. Over the past year, sales have roughly mirrored the stock market’s performance. If moderate growth continues, then 2019 sales are likely to rise by 3.7%, down from 2018’s strong 6.1%.

Source: Department of Energy, Price Statistics