Area Economy

Majority of retailers expect spring sales increases

March 31, 2017
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More than three of every four Michigan retailers (76 percent) expect to increase their spring sales over last year, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The upbeat forecasts follow generally positive February sales: 57 percent reported sales were better (45 percent) or as good (12 percent) as the same month the year before.

“These upbeat forecasts and results are no surprise, given the fact that consumer confidence is high and the number of people working in Michigan continues to grow,” MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan said.

“Also contributing to better sales and expectations were the mild February weather and record profit-sharing checks earned by autoworkers.”

Nationally, retail sales excluding autos and gasoline rose by 0.2 percent in February, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Economists pointed to delays in sending out millions of federal income tax refunds as a reason February sales weren’t higher.

The Michigan Retail Index survey for February found 45 percent of the state’s retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 43 percent recorded declines and 12 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 52.8, up from 40.5 in January.

A year ago in February, the performance index stood at 58.7.

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, 76 percent of retailers expect sales during March-May to increase over the same period last year, while 3 percent project a decrease and 21 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 79.0, nearly level with 79.4 in January.

A year ago in February, the outlook index stood at 75.2.

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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