Michigan retailers report strong sales in January

LANSING, Mich. – Retailers in Michigan reported a steep increase in sales this past month compared to numbers reported in January 2019, according to the Michigan Retail Index.

The January Retail Index survey came in at 72.5, an impressive increase from January 2019’s 42.1, and up from December 2019’s 60.0. The seasonally adjusted performance index is conducted by Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch.

The 100-point index provides a snapshot of the state’s overall retail industry. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity. This month’s 72.5 number is so high because last month’s sales were much stronger than a typical January, a Federal Reserve spokesman said.

The January survey showed that 44% of respondents reported sales increases over December. Thirty-eight percent of retailers recorded declines and 18% reported no change.

The Retail Index shows that 71% of Michigan retailers expect increased sales through April, while 13% predict a decrease; 16% expect no change. That results in an adjusted outlook index of 73.1 – a solid indication for a successful spring.

“It’s great to start the year on a positive note,” said William Hallan, President and CEO of Michigan Retailers Association. “It’s partly due to the fact that we’ve seen a mild winter so far in 2020. Last year, retailers were dealing with the polar vortex, which shut down many businesses across the state for days at a time.”

Hallan also notes that consumer confidence is high as well. “It’s higher than this time last year, when the uncertainty of tariffs and a government shutdown affected sales numbers,” Hallan said.

Nationally, retail sales in January increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over December and were up 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Michigan’s unemployment rate has not been announced. In December, Michigan’s unemployment rate came in at 3.9%. Currently, the national rate is 3.6%.

Note: William Strauss, senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, can be reached at 312.322.8151.