State of Retail

Retail is undergoing an enormous transformation, leaving many asking, “What’s the future of retail?” The narrative that the industry is struggling, dying or even suffering a retail apocalypse inaccurately depicts what’s really happening.

The facts

Retail is growing.

There are over 1 million retail establishments across the United States, and retail sales have grown almost 4 percent annually since 2010.

It’s not in-store vs. online.

It’s all retail. Of the top 50 online retailers, nearly all operate stores.

Industry-wide, online sales make up 10 percent of all retail sales.

Retail sales and jobs growth

Over the last decade, retail sales and jobs have continued to grow despite challenging economic conditions. 

NRF expects retail sales in 2018 to increase at a minimum of 4.5 percent over 2017.


2018 will see a net growth of 2,000 stores

It makes headlines when well-known retailers close stores, but research from IHL Group shows for every retailer closing stores in 2018, two are opening stores: There will be a net increase of 2,000 stores in 2018. The report also expects stores to be involved in 81 percent of all retail sales in 2021.

Store open sign in an outdoor cafe
The halo effect

ICSC finds opening a new store increases traffic to that retailer’s website by an average of 37% and drives up share of web traffic within that market by 27%.

There’s no question the retail industry is transforming, driven by new technology, evolving consumer behavior and bold new innovators.

And as the industry evolves, industry leaders and analysts are asking complex questions about how to measure success as the digital and physical worlds continue to converge within the modern retail business.

Analysts and executives agree: These 3 factors will shape retail’s future

As the evolution of retail continues, many experts are now questioning the value of long-standing metrics like same-store sales and wondering how the new retail industry can be measured more accurately. 

Read more from NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay on LinkedIn.


Woman on phone shopping

The retail apocalypse that everyone had been talking about really hasn’t happened.

Eric Rosenthal, Senior Director of Leveraged Finance at Fitch Ratings

Recent industry coverage

Don’t take our word for it. Recent news coverage shows an industry that is evolving and thriving:

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