MRA says retailers didn’t have a very happy holiday

The Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) said that Michigan's retail industry had a poor holiday shopping season thanks to damaging winter storms and “outdated government policies that favor out-of-state online companies.”

Retailers posted only a 0.1% average increase over last holiday season, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of MRA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

"Retailers were hit by arctic air, snow and ice storms that knocked out power across the state during the critical final days of the holiday shopping season, when stores should have been full," said president and CEO James P. Hallan. "At the same time, they continued to be hurt by badly out-of-date laws that give out-of-state online merchants a price advantage over our Michigan companies that invest in Michigan, employ Michigan workers, pay taxes in Michigan and support their Michigan communities."

Hallan added that lawmakers cannot let another Christmas go by without enacting Main Street Fairness legislation to enable Michigan businesses to compete on an equal footing with out-of-state “vapor” retailers and put an end to government picking winners and losers on the retail playing field.

The latest Michigan Retail Index showed 38% of retailers increased sales during the holiday season and 41% experienced declines, while 21% reported flat sales.

Retailers went into the already compressed shopping season with cautious optimism, their forecasts averaging a 1.3% gain over last year. The results were even weaker, the association said.

December sales were slightly better than November's. The Index found that 39% of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 44% recorded declines and 17% saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 50.5, up from 46.7 in November.

The 100-point Index gauges the performance of the state's overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by MRA and the Federal Reserve. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 42% of retailers expect sales during January-March to increase over the same period last year, while 25% project a decrease and 33% no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 63.3, up from 58.4 in November.