Brick-and-mortar sales growth is expected to be roughly half that of online and non-store, suggesting a return to pre-pandemic growth levels for ecommerce.

The National Retail Federation expects online and other non-store sales to increase between 10% and 12% to a range of $1.41 trillion to $1.43 trillion this year.

Non-store sales are mainly online but include other sales such as orders through:

  • Call centers
  • Catalogs
  • Door-to-door visits
  • Vending machines

They don’t align perfectly with pure ecommerce figures. Nonetheless, NRF’s annual forecast is viewed widely as an early indicator of how ecommerce is expected to perform in the months ahead.

U.S. ecommerce sales reached $1.03 trillion in 2022, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis in February of U.S. Department of Commerce figures released Friday. That marked the first time annual ecommerce revenue has topped the $1 trillion level.

NRF said it expects total retail sales will grow between 4% and 6% in 2023. That would mean they’d reach between $5.13 trillion and $5.23 trillion. Those sales include brick-and-mortar as well as online and other non-store sales. The 2023 forecast is above the pre-pandemic average annual retail sales growth rate of 3.6%.


The forecast was released during NRF’s State of Retail & the Consumer webinar on March 29.

“In just the last three years, the retail industry has experienced growth that would normally take almost a decade by pre-pandemic standards,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said during the webinar. “While we expect growth to moderate in the year ahead, it will remain positive as retail sales stabilize to more historical levels.”

Online growth tops total growth

NRF’s projection of online growth as high as 12% this year suggests ecommerce is returning to its pre-pandemic growth rates. That growth would be roughly double the forecast for total retail growth.

That’s in line with projections from Forrester Research Inc., which forecasts an annual 1.5 percentage point increase in ecommerce’s market share through 2027.


Inflation’s impact

NRF projects full-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth of around 1%, reflecting a slower economic pace. That’s half of the 2.1% increase from 2022. Inflation is on the way down, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. However, it will remain between 3% and 3.5% for all goods and services for the year.

Still, Kleinhenz noted that recent developments in the financial markets and banking sector as well as some unresolved public policy issues complicate the outlook.

“While it is still too early to know the full effects of the banking industry turmoil, consumer spending is looking quite good for the first quarter of 2023,” Kleinhenz said. “While we expect consumers to maintain spending, a softer and likely uneven pace is projected for the balance of the year.”

Much of the growth in ecommerce is due to omnichannel sales, NRF noted. Bricks-and-mortar locations remain the primary point of purchase for consumers, accounting for about 70% of total retail sales.

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