The September numbers come as retail continues a long-term pattern of increased sales.
Overall, U.S. businesses added 134,000 jobs over August, the Labor Department said.
NRF forecasts holiday sales will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent.
The inaugural contest celebrates some of the most innovative products in retail.
“More tariffs could come any day,” NRF says.
The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
The NRF issued a statement from President and CEO Matthew Shay.
The National Retail Federation says returning students will still need to shop for supplies, apparel and other goods.
“Today’s numbers mirror the economy, which is in very good shape,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.
The National Retail Federation says tariffs remain a threat.