The National Retail Federation (NRF) has released its economic forecast, projecting retail industry sales—which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants—will increase 4.1%, up from the 3.5% growth seen in 2014.

NRF also expects non-store sales this year to grow between 7% and 10%. The 4.1% increase would mark the biggest annual growth since 2011 when retail sales for the year increased 5.1%.

"Already facing far fewer obstacles than this time last year in terms of growth opportunities, retailers are optimistic about the potential that exists for healthy growth in retail sales and consumer engagement in 2015,” said Matthew Shay, NRF's president and CEO. “While our outlook for the year ahead is positive, we aren’t quite out of the woods; in order to see continued momentum we need a commitment from our leaders in Washington to pass legislation that will encourage investment, create jobs and set us on the path towards sustained, long-term economic growth.”

Jack Kleinhenz, NRF's chief economist, added, “The economy appears to finally have gained some real traction and after a somewhat turbulent 2014, we expect to see continued gains in economic activity in the year ahead. While Americans are benefiting from a pickup in wages and jobs and gains in the U.S. stock market, economic slack has been reduced.  We still, however, have a ways to go in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. There are a few wild cards that the retailers will need to keep an eye on, like global economic growth, energy prices and even inflation.”

Additional economic insights from NRF include:

A baseline outlook for growth in the economy as measured by GDP is expected to land between 2.7% and 3.2% over last year;

Growth in the labor market should average between 220,000–230,000 new jobs per month throughout the year;

Unemployment is expected to drop to 5% by year’s end;

Gains in equities and housing have boosted net worth to record levels, helping consumers feel more confident about household spending.

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