Michigan retailers boost spring sales forecasts

LANSING – Michigan retailers’ spring sales forecasts grew even stronger after their March sales rose, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Four of every five retailers (80 percent) expect spring sales from April to June to increase over last year. That’s up from the 76 percent who expected a rise in sales from March to May.

“After a slow start in January, retail performance is rising sharply,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan.

“Retailers’ projections are high because spring is finally here and current sales are increasing, consumer confidence remains high, the Michigan workforce continues to grow and gasoline prices remain in check.”

The Michigan Retail Index survey for March found 43 percent of the state’s retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 34 percent recorded declines and 23 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 57.4, up from 52.8 in February.

A year ago March the performance index stood at 53.3.

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.

Nationally, retail sales excluding autos, gasoline, building materials and food service, rose by 0.5 percent in March, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Looking forward, 80 percent of Michigan retailers expect sales during April – June to increase over the same period last year, while 5 percent project a decrease and 15 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 84.0, up from 79.0 in February.

A year ago March, the outlook index stood at 73.2.

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