Retail gets a bad rap and it’s not fair or accurate, contends the National Retail Federation.
The trade organization, determined to change perceptions that the industry is sickly and that brick-and-mortar stores are getting clobbered by the Internet, on Wednesday spotlighted statistics showing retail growth, both in terms of sales and jobs.
NRF’s message was that “reports of the death of the industry are greatly exaggerated.”
The association indicated that there are more than one million retail establishments across the U.S. and that retail sales have been growing at almost 4 percent annually since 2010.
The NRF also said monthly retail sales, on a seasonally adjusted basis, have grown from $268.9 billion in January 2015, to $291.3 billion as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Census Retail Trade Survey. The survey shows sales flattening since May.
Monthly retail employment plummeted from October 2007 to July 2009 but has picked up since, rising to almost 12.9 million from about 11.9 million in July 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Total U.S. retail sales stood at $2.6 trillion in 2006 and rose to $3.34 trillion in 2016, according to the bureau.
Online is not “killing” bricks-and-mortar businesses, the NRF said, underscoring that online sales make up less than 10 percent of total retail sales and most online sales are from traditional bricks-and-mortar web sites.
Of the 50 top online retailers, nearly all operate stores, and 75 percent are traditional brick-and-mortar companies, according to the NRF, citing eMarketer statistics.
Still, online sales are on the rise, from 7.8 percent of total retail sales as of the first quarter of 2016 to 8.5 percent as of the first quarter of 2017, according to the Census Bureau.
The NRF claims the government doesn’t give the full picture on the U.S. retail job market, and basically just counts workers inside stores and not at corporate headquarters, e-commerce facilities, warehouses and other behind-the-scenes areas.
The organization has been in talks with the Bureau of Labor Statistics urging the government agency to rethink how retail jobs are counted and to take a more comprehensive approach, as previously reported by WWD. The NRF wants to work with the government on issuing a different set of statistics.
Government statistics indicate a loss of about 172,500 jobs in the sector in the first half of this year, with department stores losing about 37,000 jobs and apparel and accessory chains shedding about 10,400 jobs.
As NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said, “Clear sins of omission are distorting the true picture of the retail industry. As an industry we’re pushing back and providing the data and anecdotes that show the true picture. And we will continue to do so until these distortions stop.”