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U.S. Retail Sales to Rise 3.1% as Spending Shifts From Malls

U.S. retail sales will grow just 3.1 percent in 2016 as consumers shift more of their spending to experiences, rather than the mall, according to the National Retail Federation.

The rate, which excludes purchases of cars, gasoline and restaurant food, is a slowdown from the 4.1 percent that the NRF predicted for 2015, a forecast it released about a year ago. Nonstore sales, which partly measure e-commerce activity, will increase 6 percent to 9 percent in 2016, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement Wednesday.

Lower gas prices and higher employment rates aren’t creating much of a windfall for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Consumers are instead spending their discretionary income on experiences like travel and dining at restaurants. Retail sales rose 3 percent during the holiday season last year, the NRF said, missing the group’s projections for a 3.7 percent gain.

The projected 3.1 percent gain matches the NRF’s preliminary growth estimate for 2015, which was lower than originally forecast. It also would be higher than the 10-year average of 2.7 percent growth, but that period includes the Great Recession.

“The economy had a bumpy ride in 2015, with fits and starts along the way,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the statement.

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