Michigan retailers off to better start in 2010


    LANSING — Michigan retailers began 2010 with an upswing in sales and confidence, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index survey, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

    The survey found that more than 40 percent of retailers increased sales in January, the highest level since November 2007. In addition, 49 percent project better sales for the rest of the winter and early spring, the best since March 2008.

    However, the number of retailers posting year-over-year sales decreases in January, 47 percent, outnumbered those ringing up increases, 42 percent, for the 27th consecutive month.

    Michigan’s retail industry has posted better sales numbers three months in a row and shown solid improvement since its low point last winter and spring.

    We expect this trend to continue as the economy begins to slowly create more jobs and chip away at double-digit unemployment, currently the biggest problem affecting consumer spending.

    The Michigan Retail Index survey for January found that 42 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 47 percent recorded declines and 11 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 49.9, up from 47.8 in December. A year ago, the index had dropped to 29.0 in January.

    Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in positive activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.

    Looking ahead, 49 percent of retailers expect sales during February-April to improve over the same period last year, while 29 percent project a decrease and 22 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 61.8, up from 57.1 in December. A year ago the index had fallen to 41.6 in January.

    James P. Hallan is president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, the nation’s largest state trade association of general merchandise retailers.

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