- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2008

Retail sales are expected to grow at their slowest pace in six years amid shoppers’ concerns about the economy and the job, housing and credit markets.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), a Washington trade group, said today that it expects retail sales to rise 3.5 percent this year, compared to a 4.8 percent expected bump in 2007 and 6.3 percent in 2006. It was the weakest forecast since 2002.

That year, shoppers were still reeling from an economic downturn in the wake of the September, 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; retail sales rose 3 percent.

“Consumers will be under financial stress from high energy costs, the fallout from the housing slump, and sluggish employment and income growth,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist at the NRF. “Shoppers will seek to pay down debt, spend more in line with income growth, and approach discretionary purchases with more restraint.”

The NRF, which released its figures during its annual convention in New York, said it expects sales to rise at a “sluggish” 3.2 percent rate in the first half of the year, followed by a 3.8 percent increase in the second half of the year.

The final results from 2007 won’t be available until the Commerce Department releases its figures tomorrow.

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