NRF predicts best year for US retail since 2011 but January’s figures tell different story

2015 should be the best year for US retail growth since 2011 according to the NRF driven by a consumer spending what they’ve  saved on falling gas prices in stores.

Great news if it comes to pass but the bears in the sector are already warning it may be arrogant to assume the fuel price windfall will come retail’s way.

They cite yesterday’s January’s retail sales figures from the US Department of Commerce which show the shopper is pocketing fuel cost gains or spending them on experiences, such as going out to eat, rather than buying stuff in stores.

The numbers put the National Retail Federation’s prediction that 2015 retail sales will increase 4.1%, up from 3.5% on last year under pressure. That’s because they show that sales at both specialty and department stores were on the slide last month with apparel and accessories stores seeing a drop of 0.8% to $21.2bn on last year. Department store sales dropped 0.7% to $13.bn.

Not the best start to 2015, particularly as the figures were against fairly soft comparisions. Last January sales were hampered by snowstorms which kept large parts of the country away from stores.

The fall in the price of gas is a key factor in the upbeat forecasts being punted about for retail this year. Gas is now more than a dollar cheaper a gallon than it was at this time last year, which means the average US household will spend about $550 less on fuel in 2015.

The verdict on the prospects for US retail in 2015 will very much depend on how you think the consumer will use that cash, judging by January’s numbers the jury is still out.

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