Michigan retail sales slow, but outlook remains positive

June 4, 2012
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LANSING — Sales slowed across Michigan’s retail industry in April, but retailers’ forecasts for summer remain strong, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The 100-point Index, which measures the overall performance of the state’s retail industry, dipped five points in April to 52.6, the lowest since June 2011. Retailers’ outlook for the first half of summer grew slightly, to 69.2.

“It appears the warm-weather boost in sales that retailers enjoyed in the first quarter took away from April’s sales,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Retail sales remained positive in April, but did not grow as fast as they did the first three months of this year or most of the second half of last year.

“It’s also noteworthy that retailers’ level of optimism remains solid going into the first half of summer. They expected the slowdown to be short-lived,” Hallan added.

The Michigan Retail Index for April found that 45 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 33 percent recorded declines and 22 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 52.6, down from 57.8 in March. A year ago April it was 53.1.

The Index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by MRA and the Federal Reserve. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 61 percent of retailers expect sales during May-July to increase over the same period last year, while 10 percent project a decrease and 29 percent no change.

That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 69.2, up from 69.0 in March. A year ago April it was 60.9.

National retail sales slowed in April, rising only 0.1 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

William Strauss is senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He can be reached at (313) 322-8151.

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