Area Economy

Retailers’ sales and forecasts remain positive for spring

April 22, 2016
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Michigan retailers’ sales and forecasts remained positive in March while slipping only slightly from the previous month, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index survey, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The survey found 63 percent of retail businesses reported March sales were better (43 percent) or as good as (20 percent) the same month a year ago. That was off from 66 percent in February.

It also found 85 percent project their sales will improve (66 percent) or be as good as (19 percent) compared to the same period last year. That figure pulled back from 92 percent in February.

“March sales performance continued the momentum that started in February after two subpar months,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan.

“Although gasoline prices have been rising, overall economic conditions are positive for consumers.”

Across the U.S., retail sales excluding autos and gasoline were virtually unchanged in March, rising 0.1 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The March Michigan Retail Index survey found 43 percent of Michigan retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 37 percent recorded declines and 20 percent reported no change.

The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 53.3, down from 58.7 in February. A year ago March the performance index stood at 66.8.

The 100-point index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by MRA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 66 percent of retailers expect sales during April-June to increase over the same period last year, while 15 percent project a decrease and 19 percent no change.

That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 73.2, down from 75.2 in February. A year ago March, the outlook index stood at 76.9.

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

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