Retailers Remain Optimistic


    LANSING — Sluggish April sales haven’t dimmed the second-quarter outlook for the state’s retailers. In fact, their optimism for a solid selling quarter has risen slightly from last month.

    According to the Michigan Retail Index, a monthly statewide sales report compiled by the Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 73 percent of shop owners said they still expect higher sales for this quarter over last year. And when the results of the survey are seasonally adjusted, the retailers’ optimism level reaches 78.4 percent — the highest it’s been since the 80.6 percent rating that was recorded in February 2000.

    In April, 75 percent of merchandisers projected higher quarterly sales.

    “April was tough for many retailers because Easter sales were shifted to March and the weather didn’t entice shoppers to purchase spring merchandise,” said Larry Meyer, MRA chairman and CEO.

    Only 39 percent of retailers statewide reported higher April sales from the same month last year, while 45 percent said sales fell for the month from 2001. In West Michigan, 40 percent reported a gain, while 34 percent said sales slipped.

    “Even though sales for many general merchandise retailers were lackluster, a growing number strongly expect consumer spending will heat up as the weather warms,” said Meyer.

    More than half of the retailers in Traverse City, Kalamazoo and Lansing had sales gains in April, while sales dropped the most in Saginaw, Royal Oak and Iron Mountain.

    A third of Grand Rapids’ storeowners had increases in April, while 36 percent said sales fell. As for a second quarter sales projection, 75 percent of local retailers predicted an increase over last year.

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