Expectations running high for holiday season


LANSING — Three out of four Michigan retailers expect to increase sales this holiday season, many by more than 5 percent, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“Michigan retailers are bullish on the holiday season,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Their forecasts are the most optimistic in more than a decade.”

The monthly Index survey found that 43 percent of the state’s retailers expect their holiday sales to rise by more than 5 percent over last year, while 32 percent expect smaller increases. Another 18 percent believe their sales will match last year’s, and 7 percent project a decrease.

The average of all their forecasts is +13.4 percent.

Holiday hiring is expected to increase slightly: 11 percent plan to increase employment, 5 percent reduce it and 84 percent keep the same level as last holiday season.

The September Michigan Retail Index found that 42 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 37 percent recorded declines and 21 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 54.0, down from 61.7 in August. A year ago September it was 57.9.

The Michigan Retail Index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve.

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

Looking forward, 59 percent of retailers expect sales during October-December to increase over the same period last year, while 16 percent project a decrease and 25 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 76.8, up from 67.7 in August. A year ago September it was 61.4.

Central Michigan retailers led the state in September with 67 percent of the regional group reporting sales increases. Gifts stores, furniture and appliance stores, department stores and apparel stores throughout the state rang up the best numbers among the various trade lines.

William Strauss is senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He may be reached at (312) 322-8151.

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