Retail sales have risen for seven months in a row and are now more than 5 per cent higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The data agency released numbers for November on Friday that showed Canadian retailers racked up more than $55 billion in sales during the month. That’s more than $600 million higher than they were the previous month, and the seventh straight monthly gain since shopping cratered in March and April of 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning.
The increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores and higher online sales — continuing the internet shopping trend that exploded last spring.
Different types of stores saw different sales changes, including:
- Food and beverage stores, up 5.9 per cent.
- General merchandise, up 1.6 per cent.
- Building and garden supply, up 2.2 per cent.
- Gas stations, down 1.6 per cent.
- Clothing and accessories, down 3 per cent.
Sales grew in every province except Manitoba, where they declined by 3.1 per cent. Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic noted that Manitoba’s lag is likely because that province was among the first to move into a second lockdown phase.
“That could be a preview of what is coming in the data for December and January from some other larger provinces that have since taken similar measures,” Kavcic said.
While retail sales numbers look strong “in the rearview mirror,” as Kavcic put it, the data agency indeed warned that the streak of growth may come to an end with next month’s numbers, which cover the normally busy shopping month of December.
StatsCan said Friday that preliminary data suggests retail sales were down by 2.6 per cent in December. That estimate is based on early numbers from 59 per cent of retailers surveyed by the data agency, so the number may change as more retailers report their numbers.
It may also get worse as retailers locked down by government orders report their sales data.
“We’re set for a steep decline in December as lockdown measures spread more widely across major parts of the country and then extended into January,” Kavcic said.
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