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 forecasts retail sales in 2019 will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion.

Retail store numbers continue to grow

According to a new report from IHL Group, retail stores are definitely not going away. In fact, for each company closing stores, 5.2 are opening stores. For every segment of retail, there are more companies opening stores than closing stores.

Photo of open sign on shop door
BJ's Wholesale Club
Setting the record straight

The latest wave of “retail apocalypse” coverage was sparked by a UBS report projecting that retailers must close 75,000 stores by 2026 due to ecommerce. Here’s why that report paints a misleading picture of the industry.

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 using touchscreen mirror in dressing room

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:

More stories and insights on retail’s transformation

The scientific method of fashion
Retail Gets Real episode 141: How Ministry of Supply is reengineering workwear for performance.
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7 startups compete for spotlight at Tech Trends event
Brain of the Store AI platform takes top prize.
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How retailers can prepare for the workforce of the future
Retail Gets Real episode 132: Carrie Duarte from PwC’s Workforce of the Future.
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