Holiday shoppers started before Thanksgiving

LANSING — Michigan retailers began the traditional Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday shopping season with a head of steam caused by shoppers starting their gift buying early, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The state’s retail industry boosted its performance in October, setting the stage for what’s expected to be a solid holiday season, the latest monthly survey of MRA members found.

“After a lull in September, sales rose for more Michigan retailers in October,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Other surveys point to early holiday shopping as a likely reason for the rise. More than half of consumers reported having started their holiday shopping well in advance of the Thanksgiving weekend.”

Three out of four Michigan retailers expect to increase sales this holiday season, many by more than 5 percent, according to the index’s September survey. Their forecasts are the most optimistic in more than a decade.

The October Michigan Retail Index found that 47 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 34 percent recorded declines and 19 percent saw no change.

The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 59.4, up from 54.0 in September. A year ago October it was 58.3.

The 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, 57 percent of retailers expect sales during November-January to increase over the same period last year, while 17 percent project a decrease and 26 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 72.1, down from 76.8 in September. A year ago October, it was 64.4.

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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