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Last Updated: 11/24/20

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.

MRA reports October sales down from September, retailers optimistic about holidays

Michigan retailers reported that although overall sales decreased in October from September, retailers are optimistic as they head into the holiday shopping season.

The October Retail Index survey came in at 52.4, down from September’s 63.7. Forty-eight percent of Michigan retailers reported an increase in sales over September, 39% reported a sales decline and 13% 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.

Forty-five percent of retailers predict their sales will continue to rise through January, but 37% said they expect a sales decline, and 18% don’t think things will change. That results in a 58.1 Index rating.

“We’re seeing sales rise nationwide as the holidays approach, but with another statewide order restricting in-person dining and entertainment venues, Michigan business owners face more hardships,” said Bill Hallan, President and CEO of Michigan Retailers Association. “Retailers have proven repeatedly that they provide safe environments to shop. We are urging Michiganders to shop locally and keep their dollars in Michigan this holiday season.”

According to the National Retail Federation, nationwide sales in October were up 0.3% seasonally adjusted from September and up 5.7% year-over-year. The uptick is a result of consumers starting to shop for the holidays earlier.

“Consumers have proven their resilience and willingness to spend as we head into the heart of the holiday season, and retailers are responding with deep discounts, robust inventory, and great experiences in-store and online,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers continue to demonstrate their commitment and ability to ensure safe shopping environments for their customers and their associates.”

At $782.1 million, Michigan sales tax receipts in October 2020 increased 8.9% over October 2019.

Michigan’s unemployment rate preliminarily came in at 5.5%, a strong upswing from September’s 8.6%. Last year, Michigan’s unemployment rate was 3.9%. In October 2020, the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.9% compared to September’s 7.9%.

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

October performance

Retailers reporting increased, decreased or unchanged sales, inventory, prices, promotions and hiring compared to last month (numbers in parentheses indicate October 2019 results). Survey respondents: 61.

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 48 (34) 39 (44) 13 (22) 52.4 (44.0)
Inventory 39 (43) 28 (25) 33 (32) 51.3 (54.2)
Prices 13 (16) 2 (8) 85 (76) 53.8 (52.1)
Promotions 23 (14) 3 (6) 74 (80) 60.4 (54.3)
Hiring 16 (11) 10 (8) 74 (81) 50.9 (49.3)

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 October 2019 results)

% Increased % Decreased % No Change Index*
Sales 45 (47) 37 (32) 18 (21) 58.1 (61.1)
Inventory 25 (23) 40 (39) 35 (38) 52.9 (53.1)
Prices 20 (19) 8 (8) 72 (73) 58.1 (56.8)
Promotions 31 (31) 7 (5) 62 (64) 64.9 (63.3)
Hiring 15 (16) 10 (8) 75 (76) 54.6 (56.0)

October 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 59 (42) 33 (50) 8 (8)
West 43 (23) 28 (62) 29 (15)
Central 62 (63) 25 (37) 13 (0)
East 0 (0) 100 (33) 0 (67)
Southeast 46 (58) 46 (17) 8 (25)

*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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