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Last Updated: 09/24/20

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.

Retailers report roller-coaster sales during back-to-school shopping

Michigan retailers reported a small month-over-month drop in August sales after a successful July.

The August Retail Index survey came in at 48.1, a decrease from July’s 60.0. The seasonally adjusted performance index is conducted by Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch. Still, sales were healthy when compared year-over-year.

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.

The August survey showed that 48% recorded increases over July. Forty-one percent of respondents reported sales declines and 11% reported no change.

Michigan lags the national sales trend. The U.S. Census Bureau reported overall retail sales during August were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from July and up 2.6 percent year-over-year. That follows a 0.9% month-over-month increase in July. Retail sales have been climbing after a record monthly drop while most stores were closed in April, the National Retail Federation said.

Retailers are predicting their three-month outlooks to be slightly under their prediction last month. Fifty-eight percent predict they’ll continue to rise in the next three months, but 25% said they expect a sales decline, and 17% don’t think things will change. That results in a 64.4 Index rating. The three-month outlook Index rating predicted in July 2020 was 65.4.

“There will be ups and downs as retailers and shoppers get back into their grooves following the statewide shutdown due to COVID-19 earlier this year,” said Bill Hallan, President and CEO of Michigan Retailers Association. “We’ll likely see this roller coaster for a while as retailers figure out how to adapt to changing consumer shopping habits.”

According to the the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch, about half of survey respondents sell back-to-school goods. Fifty-nine percent reported no change in sales while 36% reported decreases.

“Back-to-school shopping was different for families this year, as some students return to the classroom and others are learning online. Students learning virtually may have needed a desk instead of a backpack, for example,” Hallan said.

Sales tax receipts in August 2020 increased 7.7% over August 2019 and totaled $814.5 million. Michigan’s unemployment rate remained at 8.7%. Last year, Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4.0%. In August 2020, the national unemployment rate dropped to 8.4% compared to July’s 10.2%.

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

August performance

Retailers reporting increased, decreased or unchanged sales, inventory, prices, promotions and hiring compared to last month (numbers in parentheses indicate August 2019 results). Survey respondents: 48.

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 48 (50) 41 (27) 11 (23) 48.1 (60.1)
Inventory 26 (26) 38 (27) 36 (47) 45.3 (48.8)
Prices 17 (18) 9 (12) 74 (70) 53.3 (51.2)
Promotions 17 (20) 4 (2) 79 (78) 57.6 (61.2)
Hiring 8 (7) 13 (18) 79 (75) 51.7 (46.4)

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 August 2019 results)

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 58 (54) 25 (22) 17 (24) 64.4 (65.8)
Inventory 55 (40) 24 (27) 21 (33) 61.6 (54.3)
Prices 28 (27) 7 (5) 65 (68) 61.8 (61.9)
Promotions 50 (48) 0 (5) 50 (47) 70.5 (66.9)
Hiring 17 (25) 11 (12) 72 (63) 55.8 (59.9)

August 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 50 (33) 25 (56) 25 (11)
West 31 (77) 61 (15) 8 (8)
Central 60 (60) 40 (20) 0 (20)
East 0 (100) 0 (0) 100 (0)
Southeast 31 (50) 33 (22) 6 (28)

*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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