Retail sales show four-month increase

September 28, 2009
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LANSING — The Michigan Retail Index, an important gauge of the health of Michigan’s retail industry, moved higher during August for the fourth consecutive month — a “Four-peat” — as retailers’ sales and short-term outlook both improved. The Index is a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

August was slightly better than July and the best month in more than a year. This four-peat suggests that retail sales hit bottom in early spring.

While we cheer this long-awaited improvement, we must also caution that a majority of retailers in this state are still hurting. We have a long way to go, but it’s heartening that the arrows continue to point in the right direction.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for August found that 35 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 53 percent recorded declines and 12 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 46.6, up from 45.0 in July, 41.2 in June, 35.2 in May and 32.8 in April.

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

Looking ahead, 43 percent of retailers said they expect higher sales during September-November over the same period last year, while 35 percent project a decrease and 22 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 53.5, up from 52.7 in July, 48.7 in June and 45.6 in May.

General merchandise retailers fared the best, as did stores in northern Michigan.

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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