Michigan retailers cautious about autumn sales

September 26, 2010
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More Michigan retailers saw improved sales during August, but they also became more cautious about the next three months.

The Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, found that as many retailers posted sales increases as decreases during August — the first time since April that decreases didn't outnumber gains.

Their projections for the next three months, however, fell to the year's lowest level of expectations for better sales.

More retailers posted sales increases in August than in May, June or July, which was a good way to come out of summer. But they are being cautious as they approach the fall and early holiday shopping, waiting for some momentum to develop and demonstrate these gains can be sustained.

Retail sales also rose nationally in August, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Economists predict sales will continue to rise at a modest level in the short term as careful consumers hunt chiefly for bargains in addition to basic necessities.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for August found that 43 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 43 percent recorded declines and 14 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 46.9, up from 42.4 in

July. A year ago August, the sales performance index stood at 46.6. Index values below 50 generally indicate a decrease in overall retail activity.

Looking ahead, 42 percent of retailers expect sales during the September–November period to improve over the same period last year, while 27 percent project a decrease and 31 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 51.9, down from 62.3 in July. A year ago August, the sales outlook index stood at 53.5.

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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