Retail sales forecasts cool slightly after hot July


Michigan retailers’ sales forecasts through October slipped slightly after solid sales in July, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Most retailers posted sales increases in July, the second consecutive month of stronger sales. Their three-month forecasts dipped to their lowest of the year, although they remained at a high level.

“July’s numbers are welcome news,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “It marked only the second time this year we’ve had two months in a row of rising sales.”

“In addition, retailers across a wide spectrum of tradelines reported better sales, including gifts, apparel and personal services.”

The July survey of MRA members showed 59 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 20 percent recorded declines and 21 percent reported no change.

The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 65.3, which is up from 63.9 in June. A year ago July, the performance index stood at 74.9.

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, 56 percent of retailers expect sales during August-October to increase over the same period last year, while 16 percent project a decrease and 28 percent anticipate no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 69.7, which is down from 74.4 in June. A year ago July, the outlook index stood at 76.7.

Asked if they had revised their 2015 sales forecast since January, 53 percent of retailers surveyed said no. Of those who made changes, 22 percent increased their expectations and 25 percent lowered them.

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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