Forecasting in uncertain times

Retail Gets Real episode 210: NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz explains the annual forecast for 2021

NRF’s recent annual forecast predicted retail sales will grow between 6.5 percent and 8.2 percent to more than $4.33 trillion in 2021. As the economy reopens and individuals get vaccinated, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says a demand for goods and services “will generate more employment, which becomes more income, which becomes more spending.” Kleinhenz joins the Retail Gets Real podcast in this episode to shed more light on the forecast.

NRF builds its retail sales forecast through a combination of science and intuition. There are events — such as the coronavirus pandemic — that are difficult to predict and account for. And while it’s possible to take an educated guess at when the vaccine distribution rollout will be complete and what the effects of that will be, things are still changing daily and our expectations for the future might shift.

Consumer savings, stocks, home prices, low interest rates and government relief programs all give insights into the financial position of American households. These indicators show consumers are optimistic about the economy this year: There’s pent-up demand to return to a place of normalcy.

Kleinhenz believes the vaccine will be effective, and as consumers feel healthy and safe, they will consume retail goods and get back to lifestyle activities they’ve been missing over the past year.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about what to expect in retail this year.

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