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Data & Analysis

Business Contact Surveys: Retail

December 2011

The District Retail Survey reflected mixed signals about retail activity in October.

  • The District Retail Survey revealed a pickup of retail activity in October. Measures of store traffic and sales increased from the previous month. Net of firms experiencing lower sales, 26 percent of firms experienced year-over-year growth in sales.
  • After declining in September, retailers now expect sales during the next three months to be higher than last year. Likewise, expectations for holiday sales increased. In last month's survey, a net 8 percent of firms believed holiday sales would be higher than last year compared to a net 41 percent of firms this month.
  • The majority of survey participants reported that inventory levels were up slightly or unchanged in October compared to this time last year. All participants are satisfied with current inventory levels. One participant in the auto industry noted that the recent flood in Thailand is affecting some automakers' ability to get parts.
  • Evidence of slight upward price pressure remains; 44 percent of respondents said that prices are slightly higher than October 2010 and almost half said labor costs are at least 3 to 4 percent higher than last year. One participant in the food services industry noted that rises in food commodity prices continue to squeeze profit margins and place upward pressure on prices.

Note: +1 = Increase 0 = No change –1 = Decrease

Note: October survey results are based on responses from 27 retailers and were collected November 7-16.

The retail survey's diffusion index is calculated as the percentage of total respondents reporting increases minus the percentage reporting declines. Positive values in the index indicate increased activity while negative values indicate decreased activity.