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Last Updated: 11/20/18

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.

Halloween, early holiday spirit boost sales

October continues to be an excellent month for Michigan retailers, according to the monthly Retail Index survey that Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) conducts in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch.

The seasonally adjusted performance index of 62.9, up significantly from September’s 53.9, shows positive growth as consumers head into the biggest shopping weeks of the holiday season. A year ago, the Retail Index was 65.9.

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.

Halloween sales closed in on $9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, with the average celebrant spending $87 on costumes, decorations and more.

“We’re finding consumers are hiking their spending on Halloween, but also starting to shop for the winter holidays in October,” said James P. Hallan, MRA President and CEO.

The survey showed that 56 percent of respondents reported sales increases over September. Thirty-one percent of retailers recorded declines in October and 13 percent reported no change.

The Retail Index shows that 58 percent of Michigan retailers expect strong sales through January, while 13 percent predict a decrease and 29 percent expect no change. That results in an adjusted outlook index of 79.0 – a positive note as consumers finish up their holiday season.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than 164 million consumers plan to shop over the five-day Thansgiving weekend – a key for a successful November.

“We expect this coming shopping weekend, with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday will also benefit retailers’ bottom lines,” Hallan said. “We always like to remind consumers this time of year that it really makes a huge difference if you keep your shopping dollars in your community. If you want those stores around for years to come, you need to support them rather than send your dollars out of state.”

Michigan’s jobless rate fell one tenth of a percentage again from September to October, down to 3.9 percent – the lowest since 2000. The national rate remains at 3.7 percent. A year ago in Michigan, it was 4.7 percent.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, October 2018 sales tax receipts totaled $660.7 million, down 3.3 percent over last year. Tax receipts were $72.2 million below the May 2018 consensus estimates.

October performance

Retailers reporting increased, decreased or unchanged sales, inventory, prices, promotions and hiring compared to last month (numbers in parentheses indicate September results). Survey respondents: 52.

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 56 (45) 31 (36) 13 (19) 62.9 (53.9)
Inventory 47 (50) 18 (25) 35 (25) 64.5 (61.1)
Prices 22 (15) 0 (2) 78 (83) 60.6 (54.5)
Promotions 19 (17) 4 (5) 77 (78) 56.4 (59.1)
Hiring 21 (14) 8 (17) 71 (69) 54.7 (49.6)

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 September results)

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 58 (61) 13 (5) 29 (34) 79.0 (78.7)
Inventory 33 (40) 33 (29) 34 (31) 65.7 (57.6)
Prices 33 (35) 2 (7) 65 (58) 68.2 (65.0)
Promotions 44 (50) 6 (2) 50 (48) 67.2 (73.7)
Hiring 23 (25) 12 (7) 65 (68) 58.8 (59.2)

October 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 53 (53) 40 (27) 7 (20)
West 78 (56) 22 (11) 0 (33)
Central 50 (25) 0 (0) 50 (75)
East 40 (40) 40 (20) 20 (40)
Southeast 53 (71) 29 (6) 18 (23)

*Seasonally adjusted diffusion index. A diffusion index, which is the sum of the percent of respondents indicating increase and half the percent 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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