Sales Down So Is Optimism

February 3, 2003
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LANSING — The past holiday selling season was a dismal one for retailers in Michigan, and the third consecutive year of poor Christmas sales for merchandisers.

The last season also marked the first time that average sales for the state’s retailers fell from a previous one. Those earlier years produced sales below expectations but were never under the preceding year’s sales figures.

The dreary results have taken a toll on the retailers’ optimism and are responsible for them lowering their sales projections for the first quarter of 2003.

According to the Michigan Retailers Association, only a third of storeowners expect to see an increase in sales this year from the same period last year, and 36 percent expect that their sales will decrease through March of this year from 2002.

As for December 2002 sales, only 28 percent of MRA members had an increase from the same month in 2001 and 59 percent reported that sales fell when compared to last year. Forty-five percent had expected a gain for December.

“The holiday figures are disappointing, but in line with national figures,” said Larry Meyer, MRA chairman and CEO.

“It certainly wasn’t the result of what stores did or didn’t do. Retailers worked harder than ever to sell merchandise, but there were still too many economic uncertainties all around us,” he added.

Sales for December 2002 were the poorest for retailers since 2000, when only 25 percent reported a gain for the month. Retailers had predicted sales would rise by 3.7 percent for December, the lowest projection for the month since the MRA began doing its Monthly Retail Index with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 1994.

November results weren’t any better either, as only 31 percent reported improved sales and 60 percent said their sales decreased.

From 1994 through 1999, most retailers reported gains for December. Their best years were 1994, 1997 and 1998 when 68 percent, 63 percent and 62 percent, respectively, had higher sales figures for December from the preceding year.

The MRA is headquartered in Lansing and represents 5,800 retail business members who operate more than 13,000 stores in the state.   

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