Retailers are starting to reap the benefits of buy-local campaigns


Michigan retailers’ sales forecasts remain strong for late spring and early summer, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

More than two of every three retailers (67 percent) in the state expect to increase sales over last year during the May-July period, said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan.

The upbeat forecasts follow a solid April in which 66 percent reported sales as good or better than a year ago April. Most, 51 percent, said sales were better than the previous year.

“An improving economy marked by a falling unemployment rate has been boosting retailers’ sales and forecasts,” Hallan said.

A noticeable shift toward buying local hasn’t hurt, either.

“MRA’s statewide Buy Nearby campaign and communities’ shop-local initiatives also appear to be having a positive effect,” he said. “We believe consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of spending their dollars at stores and websites located in Michigan.”

The April monthly survey of MRA members showed 51 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 34 percent recorded declines and 15 percent reported no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 57.6, which is down from 66.8 in March but still above the key 50.0 mark. By comparison, a year ago April the performance index stood at 51.1.

The 100-point index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys that are 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, 67 percent of retailers expect sales during May-July to increase over the same period last year, while 11 percent project a decrease and 22 percent are anticipating no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 74.7, which is down from 76.9 in March. The April 2014 outlook index registered 73.9.

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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