An important gauge of the health of Michigan’s retail industry moved higher during July as retailers’ sales and short-term outlook both improved.
The Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, showed continued improvement for the weakened industry. General merchandise retailers fared the best, as did stores in Grand Rapids and northern Michigan.
July was the best month for Michigan retailers since a year ago July. For the third consecutive month, more retailers reported better year-to-year sales. Their outlook also rose, for the second month in a row.
While conditions could hardly be called “back to normal,” retailers appear to be benefiting from new stability in the auto industry and the federal stimulus dollars moving through the economy.
The Michigan Retail Index survey for July found that 37 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 47 percent recorded declines and 16 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 45.0, up from 41.2 in June, 35.2 in May and 32.8 in April.
Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in positive activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.
Looking ahead, 45 percent of retailers said they expect higher sales during August-October over the same period last year, while 34 percent project a decrease and 21 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 52.7, up from 48.7 in June and 45.6 in May.
James P. Hallan is president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, the nation’s largest trade association of general merchandise retailers.