Holiday shopping boosts Mich. retailer spirits for ’17

Ian Thibodeau

Strong sales during the holiday season have Michigan retailers confident that consumers will continue to spend through the first of the new year.

With American consumers the most confident in the economy they’ve been since August 2001, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average poised to break the 20,000 milestone, those retailers could be right.

Local and national retail officials are waiting to tally final holiday shopping numbers, but projections from the Michigan Retailers Association show the organization’s three-month outlook that started in November was the highest figure in 12 years.

That number comes from the Michigan Retail Index, a performance gauge for the industry based on monthly surveys.

“(It) shows the season got off to a good start in November and it appears to have remained positive going into the final days before Christmas,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Retailers believe that a positive holiday season will provide momentum going into the new year.”

According to the retailers association, 63 percent of association members expected better sales in 2016 compared to last year.

Regina Gaines, co-owner of House of Pure Vin wine shop in downtown Detroit, said around 25 percent of her sales for the year came from holiday shopping.

Gaines opened just over a year ago on Woodward. She said she’s tracked and recorded data on customers and their purchases to help build her company, and those numbers show that 58 percent of holiday shoppers were first-time customers.

That means people were willing to pop into new stores to browse and buy, she said.

Her biggest day of the year was Thanksgiving, she said. She was open during the parade and had a promotion running to catch foot traffic in front of her store.

A majority of sales during the holidays were “real” purchases, Gaines said, which means customers weren’t using promotions or price cuts to shop at House of Pure Vin.

Sales and projections in Michigan reflect what officials forecast for the rest of the country.

Ana Smith, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said Tuesday the organization expects to meet or exceed its forecast that consumers will spend $656 billion during the holiday season. The forecast accounts for spending in November and December. The federation won’t have final holiday sales numbers until Jan. 13.

On Monday evening, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “... Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars.”

Smith said that figure is based on a study from a Deloitte study released in September that forecast a 3.4 percent increase in holiday sales to over $1 trillion. For the purposes of that study, Deloitte defined the holiday season as November, December and January.

In Michigan, 52 percent of retailers expect sales to increase during December through February when compared to last year. Around 30 percent of Michigan retailers expect no change.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau