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The Latest COVID19 Retail Forecast

Everything about the 2020 retail and eCommerce landscape has changed during the pandemic. Prior to the public health crisis, forecasts had anticipated general softening of growth across retail channels as recessionary headwinds gathered. But instead, the economy ran into a depression-like buzzsaw that brought sectors of retail to a standstill as consumer demand for nonessential goods plummeted.

Current forecast look for a total US retail sales decline of 10.5% to $4.894 trillion in 2020, the first decline since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. This represents a major downward revision from our February 2020 forecast of 2.8% growth to $5.621 trillion.

The 10.5% total retail decline is driven by an expected 14.0% drop in nonecommerce (brick-and-mortar) retail, which will account for 85.5% of total retail sales in 2020. Ecommerce spending will accelerate this year to 18.0% growth, following a 14.9% gain in 2019, reflecting a digital channel shift amid shelter-in-place orders, broad social distancing efforts and temporary closures of nonessential retailers.

We expect that by 2021, the recovery to be well underway and for overall retail growth to rebound with an 8.9% gain to $5.330 trillion. Despite the strong increase, this level will...

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