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February 10, 2016 11:00 AM, EST

US Retail Sales Expected to Rise Just 3.1% as Spending Shifts Away From Mall

John Taggart/Bloomberg News

U.S. retail sales will grow just 3.1% in 2016 as consumers shift more of their spending to experiences, rather than the mall, according to the National Retail Federation.

The rate, which excludes purchases of cars, gasoline and restaurant food, is a slowdown from the 4.1% that NRF predicted for 2015, a forecast it released about a year ago. Non-store sales, which partly measure e-commerce activity, will increase 6% to 9% in 2016, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement Feb. 10.

Lower gas prices and higher employment rates aren’t creating much of a windfall for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Instead, consumers are spending discretionary income on experiences such as travel and restaurant dining.

Retail sales rose 3% during the holiday season last year, NRF said, missing the group’s projections for a 3.7% gain.

Still, the 3.1% increase projected for 2016 would be higher than the 10-year average of 2.7% growth, which includes the recession.

“The economy had a bumpy ride in 2015, with fits and starts along the way,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the statement.