On the heels of seven straight months of retail sales growth, the retail industry's trade group projects 2011 retail sales will rise 4.0 percent from last year.
The National Retail Federation's forecast comes amid increasing concerns about inflation from rising commodity prices and continued high unemployment. Both issues still hold the potential to knock the wind out of the economic recovery and pressure consumer spending.
Still, retailers ended last year on a strong note, with holiday sales outpacing the NRF's forecast.
The forecast, which is based on retail sales excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, is also more conservative than estimates released by other analysts.
Last month, Customer Growth Partners President Craig Johnson estimated that retail sales would rise 5.1 percent to $2.87 trillion. If this mark is achieved, it would be the strongest growth in four years.
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