State retail sales show slight increase in month of May

June 28, 2009
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Michigan retailers’ sales rose slightly in May, stopping a two-month decline, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Retailers grew more cautious in their outlook for summer, however, breaking a five-month streak of rising projections.

The good news is that sales stopped sliding after two months of decline and can begin to generate some positive momentum. We have a long way to go, but it’s important to see the numbers starting to move in the right direction.

Nationally, retail sales also rose in May, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It attributed much of the increase to stronger sales at service stations, hardware stores and grocery stores.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for May found that 31 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 54 percent recorded declines and 15 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 35.2, up from 32.8 in April. A year ago May, the index stood at 43.4.

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

Looking ahead, 34 percent of retailers said they expect higher sales during June-August over the same period last year, while 40 percent project a decrease and 26 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 45.6, down from 52.2 in April.

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

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