Area Economy and Retail

Retail performance improves after two-month dip

October 8, 2012
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LANSING — More Michigan retailers increased sales in August, the first time in three months the overall retail industry has improved its performance, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal ReserveBank of Chicago.

“Sales in late summer, the peak of back-to-school shopping, helped the retail industry rebound from a two-month slip,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “The apparel, shoes and general merchandise categories were strong, suggesting that back-to-school shopping was helpful in reversing the trend from early and mid-summer.”

Hallan noted that sales improved despite the drag caused by a continued rise in Michigan’s unemployment rate. In August, it jumped from 9 percent to 9.4 percent, the fourth straight monthly increase after dropping nine consecutive months.

The August Michigan Retail Index found that 54 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 27 percent recorded declines, and 19 percent saw no change.

The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 61.7, up from 56.1 in July and 58.6 in June. A year ago August, it was 55.9.

The MRI 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, 56 percent of retailers expect sales during September-November to increase over the same period last year, while 14 percent project a decrease and 30 percent see no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 67.7, up slightly from 67.4 in July. A year ago August, it was 61.1.

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

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