retail

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Many holiday shoppers will be hunting for bargains in their pajamas.

A new report says nearly half of all holiday presents will be bought online this year.

Pat Huddleston is a Michigan State University professor who specializes in consumer behavior. She expects 56% of holiday shoppers will buy gifts online this year, buying 44% of their presents via the web.

By comparison, online shopping amounts to roughly 12% of retail sales annually.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Several groups are calling for an increase in the Michigan minimum wage to ten dollars an hour.

The current rate in Michigan is $7.40 an hour. That's higher than the national minimum wage.  Michigan is among more than a dozen states with minimum wage rates higher than the federal benchmark. 

Danielle Atkinson is with ‘Mothering Justice’, one of the groups calling on state lawmakers to increase Michigan’s minimum wage.

“We believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair pay. And it’s time for the Michigan legislature to support that as well,” says Atkinson. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed into law a new tool to crackdown on organized shoplifting.

Michigan retailers are near the end of a mediocre holiday shopping season.   But the governor’s signature making the Organized Retail Crime Act law should bring smiles to many store owners faces.

The act will make organized shoplifting a felony with a five year prison sentence. 

The Michigan Retailers Association supports the legislation.   An association spokesman says shoplifting rings run by organized crime have become a “huge problem”. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan retailers are becoming more concerned about the impact rising gasoline prices will have on sales.

Michigan’s average gas price leaped over four dollars a gallon this week.

The Michigan Retailers Association released a survey Wednesday showing lower sales projections over the next three months.

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association.   He says rising gas prices will force retailers to spend more to ship their products and discourage customers from coming into their stores.

Lizzie Williams / Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

A organized crowd of people swarmed a local business in downtown Grand Rapids as part of an effort to buy local this holiday season.

Dozens showed up at the same store at the same time for the event, called a “cash mob”. It was organized by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Each person pledged to spend at least $20. Which store the cash mob goes to remains a secret until just a few hours beforehand.

“It’s a new spin on long time mission for the chamber of bringing exposure to local businesses,” said GRACC President and CEO Rick Baker. Baker says they heard about the idea from Cleveland.

The cash mob targeted retail incubator, MoDiv; a single storefront with nine generally new, small retail businesses inside.

jimmiehomeschoolmom's / Creative Commons

Strangers have paid off more than 30 layaway bills at a Kmart near Grand Rapids in the last week.

Dan Veenstra has been working there for more than 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.  “In the past we’ve had people come in that want to pay on somebody’s layaway - it’s usually a friend or neighbor or a family member. But it’s never been strangers like this,” Veenstra said.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan retailers say 4 dollar a gallon gasoline is taking a bite out of their business.  The latest survey by the Michigan Retailers Association says state businesses saw a marked decline in sales in March, as gasoline prices started to soar.    Michigan retail sales slumped to their lowest level since last July. 

Tom Scott is with the association.  

Consumers spent more on retail goods in the first quarter than they did during the same time last year. That's despite higher gas prices, bad weather and a late Easter holiday.

Luxury retailers were the winners.

Retail analyst Marshal Cohen says the recession has left the consumer with "frugal fatigue."

"We're tired of being so frugal with what we're spending and at the least expensive place," he says.

A bunch retailers released their first quarter numbers this week.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Gasoline prices in Michigan continue to edge closer to $4 a gallon. Rising prices are affecting retailers along with customers. Consumers are taking a double hit,  prices are rising at the pump and increasing fuel costs are expected to boost food prices by 3 to 4 percent this year, with the biggest increases in meat, dairy and coffee. 

Many of Meijer’s 101 stores in Michigan have company gas stations sitting in front. Frank Guglielmi is a Meijer’s spokesman. He says as gas prices rise the retailer is seeing customer buying patterns change. 

 "The more money they have to spend on fuel for their vehicles, the less they have potentially spend on groceries or general merchandize in a Meijer store.”

Guglielmi says Michigan consumers have become a “battle hardened” group" as a result of the double punch of recession and high gasoline prices in recent years. 

The price of fuel is expected to continue to rise through Memorial Day.

Rising gasoline prices threaten to take some of the optimism out of a rosy new forecast for retail sales in Michigan.  A recent survey of Michigan retailers finds 76% expect to see their sales improve this spring. 

  Good holiday sales are lifting many business owners expectations for the year ahead. 

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retail Association. Scott says the survey was taken before gasoline prices spiked this week.   He says high gas prices could be a problem for retailers.

 “But the bigger concern, more than just their own delivery trucks, is generally the effect on consumers.  And of course, every dollar a consumer puts in his or her gas tank is a dollar that can’t be spent at the store.”

Scott says a few years ago when gas prices reached four dollars a gallon, retail sales dried up.  But he says pent up consumer demand may keep the customers coming, even with high gas prices.