State Retailers Stretch Their String

May 27, 2004
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LANSING — Despite the steep climb in fuel prices, continued positive retail sales in April brought Michigan retail sales to the end of its best 3-month period since early 2000.

The Michigan Retail Index — a joint project of the Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago — found that 52 percent of retailers increased sales in April over April 2003.

Another 13 percent of retailers reported sales to be as good as last year, while 35 percent of the firms in the industry reported declines.

The results are expressed in a seasonally adjusted performance index of 56.7, down from 59.9 in March, but the best April since 1999.

Larry Meyer, MRA’s chairman and CEO, said February and March of 2004 were the best consecutive months rung up by state retailers since the beginning of 2000. “April’s results extended the current string,” he said.

Sales growth actually began last July, he said, and continues to gain momentum.

“The big question is whether gas prices above $2 a gallon will cut into retail sales this summer.”

MRA said retailers’ projections for the next three months rose slightly in April, with 68 percent anticipating better sales over the same period last year. Another 22 percent project as-good sales, and 10 percent expect declines in sales.

That results, Meyer said, in a seasonally adjusted outlook index of 72.3, up from 70.2 in March and three points ahead of April.

MRA reported all areas of the state posted positive retail numbers during April. Furniture and appliance retailers were in the lead, 68 percent boosting sales over last year.

MRA represents 6,000 general merchandise retailers operating more than 13,0000 stores in Michigan.

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