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Last Updated: 04/23/21

Michigan Retail Index

The Michigan Retail Index is a monthly gauge of key retail activity in Michigan based on a monthly survey of Michigan Retail Association members. A new index is released by MRA on the fourth Wednesday of each month. The index tracks year-to-year increases or decreases in retail sales, inventory, prices, promotional efforts and hiring. It also indicates retailers’ forecasts in these areas for the next three months.

Download the survey's  historical data.

MRA Reports Retail Sales Continue to Soar with Strong March Numbers

Michigan Retailers Association today reports another large increase in retail sales in March, reflecting a fourth consecutive month of positive sales for the state.

The March Retail Index survey came in at 92.4, another steep climb from February’s 71.0. Eighty-three percent (83%) of Michigan retailers reported an increase in sales over February, 8% reported a sales decline; and 9% reported no change. The seasonally adjusted performance Index is conducted by Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch.

The 100-point Index provides a snapshot of the state’s overall retail industry. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of retailers predict their sales will continue to rise through June, but 5% said they expect a sales decline, and 17% anticipate no change. That results in an 80.3 Index rating, a slight uptick from last month’s Index rating of 80.2.

“We are happy to report that the trend of strong retail sales continues for the fourth straight month,” said Bill Hallan, President and CEO of Michigan Retailers Association. “We are elated to see retailers continuing to rebound after a tough year for all of them across the state. The upward trend is a reflection of Michiganders making the choice to divert their dollars towards supporting local merchants.”

According to MRA’s March retail volume report, home furnishing businesses are up 165.17% over 2020, department stores are up 85.95%, and hardware and home repair stores are up 60.8%.

“It’s clear that with the arrival of another round of stimulus checks in March, consumers were out spending, updating their home décor and furniture,” said Hallan. “With the warmer temperatures we experienced in March, many Michiganders spent money on cleaning up their yards and landscaping, and starting other home improvement jobs, despite the increase in raw materials such as lumber.”

Michigan’s unemployment rate in March 2021 preliminarily came in at 5.1%. Last year, Michigan’s unemployment rate was 3.7%. In March 2021, the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.0% compared to February’s 6.2%.

Breakdowns of the current, three-month and regional results are below.

March performance

Retailers reporting increased, decreased or unchanged sales, inventory, prices, promotions and hiring compared to last month (numbers in parentheses indicate March 2020 results). Survey respondents: 36

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 83 (9) 8 (87) 9 (4) 92.4 (11.7)
Inventory 39 (22) 25 (32) 36 (46) 52.9 (41.0)
Prices 28 (9) 5 (4) 67 (87) 59.6 (52.9)
Promotions 19 (18) 11 (32) 70 (50) 56.2 (44.7)
Hiring 11 (2) 3 (71) 86 (67) 54.7 (15.2)

Outlook for the next three months

Retailers expecting increased, decreased or unchanged sales, inventory, prices, promotions and hiring compared to last month (numbers in parentheses indicate March 2020 results)

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 78 (20) 5 (74) 17 (6) 80.3 (21.3)
Inventory 44 (24) 11 (42) 45 (34) 58.5 (34.4)
Prices 33 (16) 0 (21) 67 (63) 63.6 (43.4)
Promotions 49 (51) 0 (16) 51 (33) 71.6 (64.1)
Hiring 48 (30) 9 (27) 43 (43) 60.6 (44.8)

March sales performance and outlook for the next three months, by region

(The first number indicates sales performance for the month; the number in parentheses indicates outlook for the next three months)

% Increased % Decreased % No Change
North 100 (100) 0 (0) 0 (0)
West 83 (83) 0 (0) 17 (17)
Central 86 (72) 0 (14) 14 (14)
East 75 (50) 25 (25) 0 (25)
Southeast 84 (85) 8 (0) (15)

*Seasonally adjusted diffusion index. A diffusion index, the sum of the % of respondents indicating increase and half the % indicating no change, is calculated and then seasonally adjusted using the U.S. Census Bureau’s X-11 Seasonal Adjustment procedure. Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in activity, while values below 50 indicate a decrease.

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