Area Economy

Retail outlook remains positive through midsummer

May 26, 2017
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Michigan retailers expect more of the same after posting positive retail sales during April, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

More than half of retailers posted year-over-year sales increases during April and nearly three-quarters expect gains through midsummer.

“Our index has been in positive territory the past three months, up significantly since January’s slow start to the year,” MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan said.

“Consumers are responding to the good spring weather, and Michigan’s economy continues to show improvement. The state’s unemployment rate fell by 3 percentage points last month.”

The Michigan Retail Index survey for April found 51 percent of the state’s retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 32 percent recorded declines and 17 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 54.5, down from 57.4 in March but still above the important breakeven mark of 50.

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, 72 percent of Michigan retailers expect sales during May-July to increase over the same period last year, while 11 percent project a decrease and 17 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 74.3, down from 84.0 in March but well above the breakeven level.

Nationally, retail sales excluding autos and gasoline rose by 0.3 percent in April, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

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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