U.S. Job Growth Looks Set to Power Record Back-to-School Spending

Last Christmas may have been alet down, but American shoppers are finally warmed up just in time for back-to-school spending.

U.S. outlays this summer will rise 5.1% — the most in eight years — as wage gains and near-peak employment translate to higher sales, retail research firm Customer Growth Partners estimates. Americans will spend a record $616 billion this year, accelerating from last year’s growth of 4.5%.

“After a slow start due to the long winter, retail has inflected sharply up since mid-April, and has hardly looked back,” President Craig Johnson said in the report.

However, if new tariffs on Chinese goods are implemented, growth could be as low as 3.5%, according to the study. New duties on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods had been slated to go into effect but were put on hold after U.S. and Chinese leaders agreed to renew trade talks. Still, tensions linger as President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he couldimpose more tariffs on Chinese imports if he wants.

Online sales are forecast to climb almost 12% this back-to-school season while sales at big-box stores will rise 5.5%, according to Customer Growth Partners’ surveys of more than 100 malls and shopping venues.

For now, 5.1% back-to-school growth “is fully consistent with a 3% GDP pace for the second half of 2019,” Johnson said, “as the consumer — again — straps the economy on her back and powers forward.”

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