Michigan retail sales climb again in July

LANSING – Michigan’s retail industry posted strong sales numbers in July for the second month in a row, and forecasts for the end of summer and beginning of fall also rose, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The July index showed retailers’ year-over-year sales jumped another 8 points to 74.9 on the 100-point scale after climbing 19 points in June. It was the best June-July growth since the Index was established in 1994.

Retailers’ short-term sales forecasts also increased, by 7 points in July after slipping by nearly 10 points in June.

“It has been an unusually good summer. Shoppers were open to summer’s sidewalk and other clearance sales as well as discounts on back-to-school merchandise, which may tell us two things about today’s consumers,” said James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO.

“First, they were confident enough to go shopping and spend money. Second, summer’s sales appealed to their continued caution and desire to stretch their dollars.”

The positive numbers were across the board geographically and by types of stores and merchandise, he added.

The July survey of MRA members showed 63 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 18 percent recorded declines and 19 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 74.9, up from 66.7 in June. A year ago July the Index stood at 63.9.

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. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 58 percent of retailers expect sales during August–October to increase over the same period last year, while 13 percent project a decrease and 29 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 76.7, up from 69.5 in June. A year ago July the Index stood at 82.0.

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