Positive performance for Michigan retailers
Michigan retailers’ sales and forecasts remained comparatively strong in March, far ahead of last winter’s weak numbers but off from February, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index survey, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The sales index topped 50 (on a scale of 0-100) for the second month in a row — the first time that’s happened since July and August of 2007 — indicating continued positive activity throughout the retail industry.
Consumers continued buying with new energy and optimism. There was some fall-off from February as the unemployment rate remained at 14.1 percent, but we continue to see significant progress from a year ago.
The Michigan Retail Index survey for March found that 48 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 33 percent recorded declines and 19 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 55.4, down from 56.7 in February. A year ago, the index was 39.4 in March. Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in positive activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.
Looking ahead, 57 percent of retailers expect sales during April-June to improve over the same period last year, while 20 percent project a decrease and 23 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 62.4, down from 70.7 in February. A year ago, the index was 47.8 in March.
More retailers reported increased sales than reported decreases in every region of the state except Southeast Michigan.
General merchandise and gift stores led the other trade lines.
James P. Hallan is president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, the nation’s largest state trade association of general merchandise retailers.