Highlights from NRF’s 2024 State of Retail & the Consumer

Insights into the future outlook of the retail industry
Director, Special Projects and Executive Communications

NRF’s fourth annual State of Retail & the Consumer brought together retailers, industry partners and members of the media for a virtual conversation about the health of the American consumer, the economy and the retail industry.

State of retail

Watch NRF's State of Retail & the Consumer 2024 event to catch up on consumer spending and trends.

At the start of the program, Walmart U.S. President and CEO and NRF Chairman John Furner joined NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay for a discussion about how retailers are innovating to meet customers’ needs, provide exceptional shopping experiences, and drive customer engagement and retention in today’s competitive landscape.

Throughout the program, NRF released the following data-driven highlights.

New numbers on retail’s impact

Shay debuted new data demonstrating retail’s significant economic impact. With more than 4.6 million establishments, retail supports more than 55 million jobs. That’s more than one out of every four jobs, making retail the largest private-sector employer. The industry’s total gross domestic product contribution is $5.3 trillion, accounting for 20.4% of U.S. GDP.

Retail sales forecast

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz announced NRF’s annual forecast anticipating that retail sales will grow between 2.5% and 3.5% to more than $5.23 trillion in 2024. The 2024 sales forecast compares with 3.6% annual sales growth of $5.1 trillion in 2023 and is in line with the 10-year pre-pandemic average annual sales growth of 3.6%.

Consumer insights

Katherine Cullen, vice president of consumer and industry insights at NRF, put a spotlight on key consumer shopping trends:

  • 2024 started on a more optimistic note than 2023. Consumer confidence is ticking up from where it was a year ago, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Shoppers are still cautious about their budgets as consumers have prioritized what they need versus what they want (essentials versus discretionary).
  • Consumers are still celebrating special moments and taking care of themselves. NRF has seen recent growth in spending on personal care and health products, and consumers continue to plan elevated levels of spending for events from Valentine’s Day to the Super Bowl and Easter.

More takeaways from NRF’s State of Retail & the Consumer and a full recording can be found here.

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