Retailers Outlook Improving

May 30, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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LANSING — Michigan retailers are thanking spring for holding off this year and bringing an increase in sales with it while crediting the late arrival of warmer weather for projected continued improvement through mid-summer.

Retailers’ level of optimism rose to its highest point in five months during April, following a jump in sales for the second consecutive month, according to the month’s Michigan Retail Index.

The index is a joint project of the Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

For the May-July period, 62 percent expect to increase sales from the same period last year, while 15 percent forecast declines and 23 percent project flat sales. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 43.0, which is up from 39.2 in March and the best since July 2002.

“The arrows continue to move in the right direction, which is welcome news,” said Larry Meyer, MRA chairman and CEO. “Although most retailers are still not seeing the kind of improvement they need, these small and steady increases are boosting their optimism for late spring and early summer.”

In inventory, 34 percent of retailers project an increase while 22 percent expect a decrease and 44 percent feel flat sales are in the future. The results yield a seasonally adjusted performance index of 51.3 percent, up from 45.4 in March.

In addition, 22 percent of retailers project an increase in prices, 5 percent expect a decrease and 73 percent expect flat prices from the same period last year. As a result, retailers are left with a seasonally adjusted index of 57.8, up from 54.2 last year.

Where promotions are considered, 37 percent of retailers expect an increase, whereas 5 percent expect a decrease and 58 percent feel they will see flat promotions. For promotions, retailers’ results yield a seasonally adjusted index of 63.8, down from 67.5 from the same period last year.

In the hiring category, retailers didn’t report as high a level of confidence, with only 13 percent projecting an increase, while 7 percent expect a decrease and 80 percent forecast a flat hiring period.

The Michigan Retailers Association is the unified voice of retailing in Michigan and the nation’s largest state trade association of general merchandise retailers. MRA’s more than 5,800 retail business members operate more than 13,000 stores across the state.           

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