Canadian retail sales up slightly to $39.1B in August

Department store sales up a bit, building products down a bit Retail sales in Canada rose 0.3% to $39.1 billion in August, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday, disappointing economists even though the numbers met consensus forecasts. “Sales were otherwise mixed across sectors, with gains in general merchandise but a drop in clothing, health and autos,” Shenfeld […]

Department store sales up a bit, building products down a bit

Retail sales in Canada rose 0.3% to $39.1 billion in August, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday, disappointing economists even though the numbers met consensus forecasts.

“Sales were otherwise mixed across sectors, with gains in general merchandise but a drop in clothing, health and autos,” Shenfeld said.

Statistic Canada said sales at general merchandise stores increased for a second consecutive month, up 0.6%.

However, department store sales edged up just 0.2% while those at miscellaneous retailers declined for a second month in a row, falling 3.1%.

Overall, gains were reported in five of 11 subsectors, representing 53% of total retail trade.

Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, also noted that “underlying spending, excluding autos and gas, was somewhat disappointing, falling 0.1% and continuing the choppy performance seen in recent months.”

Sales at furniture and building products stores, down 0.1% and 0.4% respectively, were consistent with softening housing market trends, Kavcic added.

Regionally, British Columbia was the weak spot in August, with retail sales falling 0.9% amid declines in housing-related sectors, Kavcic said, noting that the recent housing sales slump hit that province the hardest.

It was the fifth decline in retail sales in B.C. in the last six months, Statistic Canada said.

The Prairies and Ontario were strong spots, with Alberta (up 0.4%) and Saskatchewan (up 0.6%) continuing to show the strongest consumer spending trends in the country, with retail sales growth running at 8.1 and 9.3% respectively year over year, Kavcic said.

Both provinces are fuelled by healthy labour markets and strong population growth, he said.

Ontario, where retail sales were up 0.6%, reported the biggest gain in overall dollar terms in August, while Nova Scotia showed an impressive gain of 2.8%, which Statistics Canada said was widespread across store types.

Newfoundland and Labrador also did better than most with a 1.0% gain, its sixth increase in retail sales in seven months.

Quebec posted a 0.2% gain.

Besides British Columbia, other provinces showing decreases were Prince Edward Island, down 0.1%; New Brunswick, down 0.7%, and Manitoba, down 0.4%.

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