The US National Retail Federation is projecting that retail industry sales in 2009 will decrease 0.5% compared to last year, buoyed by a recovery in the final quarter.

The NRF said it sees more challenges ahead as consumers continue to shift their spending priorities.

However, by the fourth quarter of this year NRF expects sales to improve 3.6% due to easy comparisons to last year and an anticipated strengthening of the US economy.

"Most of the consumer behaviour we saw in 2008 will continue well into this year," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "Shoppers will be seeking value and trading down to discount and off-price retailers in order to stretch their purchasing power."

The first half of the year will see a continuation of the weakness that was felt in most of 2008, the NRF said.

First half 2009 sales are expected to decline 2.5%, but there will be some improvement in the third quarter with sales decreasing 1.1%, it predicts.