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Data & Analysis

Business Contact Surveys: Retail

January 2012

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

  • The District Retail Survey revealed a pickup of retail activity in November. Measures of store traffic and sales increased from the previous month. Nearly two-thirds of firms experienced higher sales and about half said store traffic was up compared to November 2010.
  • Expectations for sales over the next three months improved. The net portion of participants anticipating higher holiday sales this year increased from 41 percent in last month's survey to 54 percent in this month's. When asked about post-Thanksgiving sales, 46 percent said sales were slightly higher and 11 percent said sales were significantly higher than the previous year.
  • The majority of survey participants reported that inventory levels were up slightly or unchanged in November compared to this time last year. All participants are satisfied with current inventory levels. One participant in the auto industry noted after six months of supply shortages due to the tsunami in Japan and flood in Thailand, the industry is now seeing significant increases in inventories.
  • Price pressures appear to be relatively normal. About half of respondents said that prices are just slightly higher than November 2010 and 85 percent said labor costs are between 0 and 3 percent higher than last year.

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

Note: November survey results are based on responses from 28 retailers collected December 5–14.

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.