State’s retail sales rebound with warmer weather

Michigan’s retail industry bounced back in April after two months of subpar performance, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Retailers’ expectations for the next three months also climbed.

“Two months of job gains, lower gasoline prices and consumers itching for spring offset the effects of April’s poor weather and the drag of higher payroll taxes,” said James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO.

“May’s warm weather should encourage consumers to continue spending at a good clip.”

The April Michigan Retail Index found that 46 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 34 percent recorded declines and 20 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 54.0, up from 47.8 in March. A year ago April it was 52.6.

The MRI 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, 59 percent of retailers expect sales during May-July to increase over the same period last year, while 10 percent project a decrease and 31 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 68.1, up from 66.8 in March. A year ago April, it stood at 69.2.

At the national level, April retail sales excluding autos, gasoline and building materials increased as well, rising 0.5 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

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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