Area Economy

Michigan retailers improve their outlook for autumn

September 30, 2016
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Michigan retailers’ autumn sales forecasts rose modestly following sluggish sales growth in August, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Retailers’ three-month projections moved up six points on the 100-point, seasonally adjusted index to return to June’s level after a dip in July.

August sales moved up five points to 50.8, but barely broke into positive territory. Still, that appeared better than other states. U.S. retail sales fell 0.1 percent in August, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

“Consumer spending slowed across the nation,” MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan said. “Moving into autumn, we expect more positive retail numbers. Consumers have caught their breath now after a buying spree, and the underlying positives of the Michigan economy — including lower unemployment and lower gasoline prices — should push up sales.”

The August Michigan Retail Index survey found 40 percent of Michigan retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 42 percent recorded declines and 18 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 50.8, up from 45.7 in July. A year ago, the August performance index stood at 43.9.

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, 56 percent of retailers expect sales during September-November to increase over the same period last year, while 12 percent project a decrease and 32 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 71.6, up from 65.6 in July. A year ago August, the outlook index stood at 68.

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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