Coronavirus Will Continue To Impact 2021 U.S. Retail Sales

A wide array of economic indicators point toward potentially record retail sales growth in the U.S. during 2021, but the coronavirus pandemic remains the biggest challenge for the year, says Jack Kleinhenz, the National Retail Federation’s chief economist. “There is no doubt the economy is positioned for growth in 2021, but how much growth comes down to a single non-economic force – the coronavirus. I am optimistic about improving macroeconomic conditions as COVID-19 infections decline and distribution of vaccines becomes more widespread. Yet the road is never straight and we have challenges ahead. The pandemic remains the largest uncertainty and the biggest risk the economy faces in 2021.” NRF forecast last week that 2021 U.S. retail sales – excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants – will grow between 6.5 and 8.2 per cent over 2020 to between $4.33 trillion and $4.4 trillion. That could top 2020’s growth of 6.7 per cent, which broke the previous record of 6.3 per cent set in 2004 despite the pandemic. The pandemic has helped the growth of online shopping, which increased 21.9 per cent last year and is expected to grow between 18 and 23 per cent this year. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total retail sales forecast, are expected to reach between $1.14 trillion and $1.19 trillion. Kleinhenz says many consumers who had not tried eCommerce before the pandemic are likely to continue shopping online.