Area Economy

Retail sales and forecasts slip but remain positive

July 30, 2012
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LANSING — Michigan retail sales and forecasts stalled in June but continued to show improvement over last year, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“The performance of Michigan’s retail industry slipped from May to June, catching up to a national trend that began two months earlier,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “However, we are still seeing year-to-year growth, a broader picture of where we are.”

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose in May and June, contributing to the falloff in retail sales performance in June, Hallan said.

The June Michigan Retail Index found that 50 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 33 percent recorded declines and 17 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 58.6, down from 61.9 in May. A year ago June, it was 52.1.

The Michigan Retail 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, 58 percent of retailers expect sales during July-September to increase over the same period last year, while 17 percent project a decrease and 25 percent no change.

That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 71.9, down from 77.5 in June. A year ago June it was 63.7.

For the important back-to-school sales period, 53 percent of retailers said they expect flat sales compared to last year, while 31 percent expect improved sales.

Northern Michigan retailers led the state in June with 65 percent of the regional group reporting sales increases over June 2011. Gifts stores and apparel stores throughout the state rang up the best numbers among the various trade lines.

William Strauss is a senior economist and economic adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He can be reached at (312) 322-8151.

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