Alberta leads West as retail sales surge

Canadian June retail sales soared 23.7 per cent from a month earlier to $53 billion, topping pre-pandemic levels, with Alberta posting the fourth-highest increase in the country

Western Investor
August 24, 2020

Sunridge Mall, Calgary, June retail sales surge
— Sunridge Mall, Calgary. | Primaris

Surprising twists in the retail narrative saw retail sales surging in June, with the vast majority of the spending in bricks-and-mortar stores, and Alberta leading the west with a sharp increase from a month earlier.

After three months of retail sales limping behind the pre-pandemic pace, June saw national sales sprint 23.7 per cent higher to $53 billion. Sales were 1.3 per higher than in February, before the global pandemic was declared.

National retail sales, however, were not just higher than they were before COVID-19 began, but 3.8 per cent higher than they were in June 2019, according to Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada is also forecasting that sales will continue to improve, advancing a further 0.7 per cent in July.

While sales were up across the board and in every province, sales of new motor vehicles led with a 17.8 per cent increase from February. Sales of gasoline were up 23.6 per cent in the same period, while prices of crude oil increased in June and as more of the economy opened up and non-essential domestic travel increased.

Sales were higher largely as a result of gains in the motor vehicle and parts dealers and general merchandise stores, especially clothing, building materials and health and beauty sectors.

Eight provinces rebounded to their pre-pandemic February levels in June. This was led by Ontario and Quebec, where retail sales increased 33.8 per cent 24.3 per cent, respectively, compared to May, Statistics Canada reports.

Alberta, with a 19.2 per cent surge in sales, month over month, saw the fourth-highest increase in the country and the highest increase in Western Canada, to reach $6.9 billion. In comparison, retail sales in Saskatchewan were 15.9 per cent higher to $1.7 billion; they increased 14.5 per cent in Manitoba to $1.9 billion; and were up 12.7 per cent in British Columbia, compared to a month earlier, to $7.3 billion.

"It's a V-shaped recovery for retail sales despite all the doom and gloom in recent months," Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes said in a research note. "Hard to believe anyone would have expected this just a few months ago."

Sales at bricks-and-mortar stores in June were up 3 per cent from a year earlier to account for 94.5 per cent of the national market, while e-commerce transactions increased 70 per cent to take a 5.5 per cent share of overall retail spending.


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