More retailers forecasting better sales

June 1, 2009
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If only current sales matched retailers’ rising projections.

Michigan retailers’ short-term forecasts rose in April for the fifth month in a row, but the number of retailers posting better sales fell for the second consecutive month, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Retailers know there is a lot of pent-up consumer demand out there, which could be a big part of the industry’s brightened outlook. There’s also a feeling that the overall economy is stabilizing and could lead to improved sales in the near future.

However, April’s numbers serve as a strong reminder that many economic problems persist, consumers are hesitant and that we still have a long way to go.

Nationally, retail sales also fell in April for the second consecutive month, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for April found that 27 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 58 percent recorded declines and 15 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 32.8, down from 39.4 in March and 40.8 in February.

Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in positive activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.

Looking ahead, 39 percent of retailers said they expect higher sales during May—July over the same period last year, while 34 percent project a decrease and 27 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 52.2, up from 47.8 in March, 44.6 in February and 41.6 in January. It was the most positive outlook since 53.4 last August.

James P. Hallan is president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, the nation’s largest association of retailers.

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