Regional Economics Information

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Data & Analysis

Business Contact Surveys: Retail

March 2012

The District Retail Survey indicates retail activity slowed in January.

  • Retail activity slowed in January and retailers revised down their forecast of sales growth over the next three months. Measures of sales and store traffic decreased month over month, especially among retailers that tend to have strong holiday sales. Year over year, more than half of firms experienced higher sales growth and more store traffic.
  • Most participants reported year-over-year growth in holiday sales. Sixty-three percent of district retailers reported higher holiday sales while 33 percent experienced worse holiday sales than last year. Four percent indicated no change.
  • However, one luxury goods contact noted that January 2012 was the worst month in 10 years.
  • About half of retailers reported that inventories were up slightly in January; about one-third reported no change. Despite the increase in inventories, only 17 percent of retailers reported that their current inventory levels are too high.
  • Net of those decreasing prices, one-third of district retailers reported raising prices over the past year. Most retailers have experienced higher labor costs ranging between 1 and 4 percent over the past year. Fourteen percent have experienced a 3 to 4 percent rise, and 64 percent have experienced a 1 to 3 percent rise.

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

Note: January survey results are based on responses from 29 retailers collected February 6—15.
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.