Michigan retailers see continued improvement

August 3, 2009
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Michigan’s retail industry fared better in June as more retailers increased sales and boosted their short-term outlook, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Although the industry remains weak, with only a third of retailers posting better year-to-year sales for June, it was the second consecutive month of improvement. Optimism for the next three months also climbed, reversing a one-month decline.

June was the best month for Michigan retailers since last July. Conditions remain extremely difficult for the retail industry, but the numbers have started moving in the right direction. We haven’t had two consecutive months of improvement since spring 2008.

Nationally, retail sales also rose in June, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It attributed much of the increase to federal economic stimulus funds working their way into stores.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for June found that 33 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 52 percent recorded declines and 15 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 41.2, up from 35.2 in May. Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in positive activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.

Looking ahead, 35 percent of retailers said they expect higher sales during July-September over the same period last year, while 39 percent project a decrease and 26 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 48.7, up from 45.6 in May.

Apparel retailers did the best, with 63 percent reporting better June sales.

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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