Retail sales continue rebound, having risen 7 months in a row since COVID low in April

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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Alberta pauses future coal lease sales in Rocky Mountains, cancels 11 recent leases

Alberta’s energy minister says the province will cancel 11 recently issued coal leases and pause future lease sales that would have allowed open-pit coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Sonya Savage said the province had listened to public concerns in recent days about its decision to rescind the decades-old policy.

“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review. A lease-holder has no more right to set foot on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before,” Savage said in release late Monday afternoon.

“This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.”

Savage said the decision won’t impact coal projects currently under regulatory review.

The 11 recently issued leases also represent a small number of existing coal leases in the area, which are unaffected. 

Shown in black are 11 recently issued coal leases, which have now been cancelled by the province. Existing coal leases are shown in grey. Category 2 lands, where open-pit mining was banned from 1976 to 2020, are in blue. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Marlin Schmidt, the NDP’s environment critic, said while the “backpedaling” from the government is a small victory for those against the policy, Alberta’s scenic landscapes are still at risk.

“They still have not committed to reinstating the coal policy and to consulting before making further changes. Without these commitments, these precious wild spaces are still under threat,” he said in an emailed statement. 

Schmidt asked if the cancellations create any financial obligations for the province.

“How much are taxpayers on the hook for?”

Only 0.002% of leases cancelled

Katie Morrison, with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said there are more than 840,000 hectares still at risk and that the 11 cancelled leases represent only 0.002 per cent of leased land.  

“Whether or not the coal leases were existing or new, open-pit coal mines are now allowed in Alberta’s headwaters where they previously were not,” she said.

WATCH | Alberta’s new approach to coal:

Alberta has reshaped a decades-old balance in the Rockies and Foothills, rescinding its 1976 Coal Development Policy, opening the door to more open-pit mines in the mountains. 4:03

The closest coal project to becoming reality currently before the Alberta Environmental Regulator (AER) is Grassy Mountain. The open pit mine, which would be located roughly seven kilometres north of Blairmore, Alta., could produce an estimated 4.5 million tonnes of coal annually over 23 years.

It would create nearly 400 full-time jobs, but many fear it could pollute nearby waters affecting millions downstream, destroy endangered species’ habitats, and damage cattle-grazing areas. 

More than 100,000 signatures had been collected as of Monday on two petitions opposing the United Conservative government’s move to rescind the coal policy. 

One of the more high-profile voices of opposition is country singer Corb Lund, who posted a video criticizing the government and saying the plans endanger the province’s future.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon said in an open letter to Albertans on Monday evening that the province’s environmental protections remain strong. He said since the policy was rescinded this year, no new project applications have been submitted to the AER and that all applications will go through the same review process.

“I have lived in the area for most of my life … I have a personal investment in ensuring [the eastern slopes] are protected,” he wrote.

A hearing had been set for Tuesday in Calgary’s Court of Queen’s Bench on the issue, where the province will seek to dismiss a request from ranchers for a judicial review and, if it’s not dismissed, consolidate that judicial review application with two others filed by First Nations. The groups have argued the government is required under law to consult before it changes a land-use plan.

A spokesperson for the energy minister said it will be up to the court to decide if Monday’s announcement will have any impact on that proceeding.

Calgary city council also heard Monday from city administration that it was not consulted on the province’s decision to change the policy, which affects the region’s watershed. 

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New home sales fall in WA

The number of new home sales across the country continued to soar in December as buyers rushed to beat stimulus deadlines, but not in Western Australia.

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Online sales drive JB Hi-Fi to bumper first half result

JB Hi-Fi has ridden the coronavirus-driven home tech and entertainment wave to a bumper first half profit with its online sales soaring 161 per cent during the period.

The boost in online sales to $678.8 million during the half more than offset the impact of government mandated temporary store closures over the six months to December 31.

JB Hi-Fi is one of the few Australian retailers to get a boost from lockdowns and border restrictions. Credit:Roger Stonehouse

JB Hi-Fi released a trading update on Monday flagging its preliminary unaudited results for the half. The update showed sales were up 23.7 per cent to $4.9 billion during the half. The company’s earnings before interest and tax shot up 75.9 per cent to $462 million thanks to tight margin and cost control over the period. The group flagged that its profit for the half would be 86.2 per cent.

The strong result was still some way off the sales momentum JB Hi-Fi had recorded between July and September. At its October annual general meeting, JB Hi-Fi told investors its sales growth during the first quarter had been 27.3 per cent.

JB Hi-Fi chief executive Richard Murray said the company was pleased to report the results on what he described as an “extraordinary period”.

“Our continued focus on the customers, and investments in our online business and our supply chain, have enabled us to seamlessly meet our customers increased demand both instore and online,” Mr Murray said.

More to come.

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Priciest home sales in East Marion – Long Island Business News

680 The Strand East Marion / photo

The three highest-priced home sales in East Marion last month ranged from $927,500 to $1.5 million.

East Marion priciest home sales

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Retail sales in 2020 worst on record

Retailers suffered their worst annual sales performance on record in 2020, driven by slump in demand for fashion and homeware products, figures show.

While food sales growth rose 5.4% on 2019, non-food fell about 5%, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

It meant an overall fall of 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact, the worst annual change since the BRC began collating the figures in 1995.

Christmas offered little cheer, with much of the High Street still closed.

“Physical non-food stores, including all of non-essential retail, saw sales drop by a quarter compared with 2019,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

“Christmas offered little respite for these retailers, as many shops were forced to shut during the peak trading period,” she said.

The 5.4% rise in food sales was fuelled by shoppers flocking to supermarkets and online grocers to ensure they were stocked up during the pandemic.

In December, total retail sales increased by 1.8% as shoppers spent more in the run-up to Christmas. Like-for-like sales for the month were up 4.8% as overall shop takings were still affected by restrictions and temporary closures.

Online non-food sales jumped by 44.8% in December, according to the new figures, as a higher proportion of shopping took place online.

Worse to come?

The BRC’s sales monitor is collated with the consultancy KPMG, whose UK head of retail, Paul Martin, said: “In the most important month for the retail industry, there was some positive growth due to the ongoing shift of expenditure from other categories such as travel and leisure.

“Once again we saw big swings in the types of products being purchased and the channels used for shopping, with much of the growth taking place online, where nearly half of all non-food purchases were made.”

But he warned that the new lockdown would worsen conditions for many non-essential shops and the High Street generally.

Last week, a report from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said that 2020 was the worst for High Street job losses in more than 25 years, as the coronavirus accelerated the move towards online shopping.

Nearly 180,000 retail jobs were lost last year, up by almost a quarter from 2019, the CRR said.

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Shaver Shop sales soar as office trims return

“COVID came along, barbers and hairdressers started to close, and people started to think ‘hang on a second, how do I get this look that I want’?” he said.


“So they started doing it themselves, which lent itself to us getting a bit of a kicker.”

Shaver Shop’s sales rallied all throughout 2020, which Mr Fox has attributed in part to the growth and cultivation of many ‘lockdown beards’, however, the executive expects demand for his products to stay strong even as workers settle back into office life.

“At the moment, everyone’s going towards beards and beard care, which maybe is because of lockdown where people have let their hair grow a bit longer than normal,” he said.

“Now, when COVID-19 ends … and everyone starts going back to the office, maybe beard trimmers will soften but electric shavers, and being clean-shaven, will grow.”

“We benefit no matter how the pendulum swings.”

Shaver Shop expects first-half profit to grow by as much as 85 per cent. Credit:Jenny Evans

Shaver Shop is far from the only retailer to benefit from the pandemic’s side effects, with major players such as JB Hi-Fi, Kogan, Wesfarmers and Premier Investments all seeing higher sales and massive online growth in recent months.

Recent retail figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a record 13.3 per cent rise in retail sales for November, spurred on by the Black Friday sales period.

Mr Fox said while Shaver Shop had participated in the sales event the company had taken a more moderate approach, with less aggressive discounting on best-selling items. This helped the business’ gross profits increase 2 per cent for the period.

Shares in Shaver Shop have risen over 50 per cent in the past year, and jumped as much as 18 per cent on Monday to hit a new all-time high of $1.25 before easing to be up 11 per cent mid-afternoon.

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Wodonga weaner sales success for producers a year on from fires and then COVID | The Border Mail

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What a difference 12 months makes. A year ago Wodonga’s feature weaner sales started with everyone’s thoughts with those in the Upper Murray under attack from fire and cattle they had earmarked for the sale either killed or badly burnt in the New Year blaze. The sales at the Northern Victorian Livestock Exchange also opened shrouded in a blanket of thick smoke coupled with oppressive heat. Fast forward 12 months the difference and results have been remarkable. Under a newlook format of four successive days, prized weaners have sold for more than $700 per head in some cases compared to last year with an estimated combined gross return from the sales of around $13.5 million. The financial rewards have also come after a year in which producers also had to navigate COVID-19 constraints and border closure frustrations. The price benchmark achieved this week is unprecedented, according to Michael Unthank, whose family’s history with the Wodonga feature sales dates back to when his late father Brian moved to the area more than 50 years ago. “It’s the best one ever,” he said. “We had blokes with good calves in here 12 months ago making $1150 to $1200 and there are calves here this week making $1750 to $1800. “I reckon we’ve had a couple of clients who have been involved since this sale started and it is always a big deal for them. “It’s held up from day one right through to today. “The crowd isn’t as big today (Friday), but the buyers here today are genuine buyers. “The numbers aren’t as big as they have been in other years because a lot of people sold prior to and took the money in October-November. “After a really good season those calves were already at the 330-340 kilos and people were happy to take the $1650-$1700.” Those prepared to be patient were also rewarded. The positive price trend was set on the opening day when Angus weaner steers surged to $1980 a head, while weaner heifers topped at $1730. On Wednesday, prices went even higher to $2070 for Angus weaner steers and $1880 for heifers at NVLX before hitting $2250 for a pen of 11-month weaner steers at Wangaratta. Weaner steers sold to $1980 and heifers $1820 on the opening day of the coloured cattle sale at NVLX on Thursday with a top price of $1970 paid for steers and $1810 for heifers on Friday. Cookardinia producer David Trethowan, who sold 85 calves on the final day up to $1900 per head, said the difference in 12 months was remarkable. “We brought cattle in here 12 months ago and you couldn’t see the other end of the yards for smoke,” he said. “A lot of our repeat clients came to the sale not knowing if they had been burnt out or if they were going to be burnt out. “There wasn’t much grass around and bugger all water. “But this year we’ve got grass, got water and no smoke.” An added feature of this year’s sales were the increasing popularity of online selling with 1226 head or 15 per cent of the total yarding across the four days at NVLX sold on StockLive. “It’s been an extremely successful week for us and that couldn’t have happened without the staff here at NVLX and the agents,” StockLive manager Libby Hufton said. “They have been so supportive in making sure their vendor information is correct and those buyers online have the ability to see as much as they can about the livestock online. “The key to that success is the transparency around the information that is available. “COVID has given online bidding in saleyards a boost. “It might have been something they wouldn’t have thought about for five or six years, but it’s on their doorstep now. “People are trusting it and using it and and know they can buy $50,000 worth of cattle at the click of a button.” Online bids were relayed via iPad to StockLive’s Emily Keys positioned closeby the auctioneer as each pen of cattle were sold. More than 1000 people logged onto StockLive during the four sale days with 124 buyers coming from Victoria, South Australia, NSW and Queensland. Queenslanders were more active in the Angus market with the majority of cattle sold online being heifers. New England centres including Barraba, North Star, Gunnedah and Tamworth were some of the areas buyers were logged in from. Mr Unthank said he was converted to the benefits of online selling. “COVID kick-started that a fair bit and it’s here to stay,” he said. “If we can use that as a format as well as the visual here at the yards, we can have the best of both worlds. “We’ve all had good results. “You’ve got the gallery looking at the cattle and the (online audience) just keeps the pressure on.” The Wodonga weaner sales were traditionally split over two weeks with Angus first up followed by Herefords other coloured cattle the next week. But this year, agents, Elders, Paull & Scollard-Nutrien, Corcoran Parker, Peter Ruaro-Rodwells, Brian Unthank Rural and Schubert Boers, settled on four straight days of sales at NVLX plus an additional sale held at Wangaratta. They went head-to-head with other feature weaner sales held throughout regional Victoria this week, but fortune has favoured the brave in making the change. “Having it all in the one week is great from a buyer perspective,” Albury-Wodonga Stock Agents Association president Peter Ruaro said. “There were blokes in the crowd who were there for the whole four days. “There is always trepidation about the unknown and we certainly had concerns from the point of view buyers had other sales they could attend this week. “But all bases were covered and that was clearly evident. “It was very good from go to whoa.” Albury-based commission buyer Graeme Ward, who has been working in the beef industry in the border area since the 1960s, said the planets had aligned for farmers with quality cattle in hot demand. “There is a lot of nervousness about supply at the moment,” he said. “There is going to be a big shortage. “There might have been a lot of cattle around this week, but there is not next week. “Looking forward into June, July, August, the numbers could be really scarce.”


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Car sales show strong WA economy

Car sales in WA were stronger than anywhere else in Australia in 2020, aside from the ACT, although they were still down on the prior year.

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Next Eyes Arcadia As Shares Jump 8% On Flat Holiday Sales

U.K. fashion-to-home chain Next plc is looking at the spoils of the Arcadia collapse at a time when the apparel retailer’s performance has been robust in the lead-up to Christmas—despite lockdowns closing non-essential retail in different regions of Britain.

Next CEO Simon Wolfson told Reuters on Tuesday that the company was part of a consortium bidding for some of Arcadia’s well-known store brands. Wolfson did not mention which ones but the pickings include Topshop, Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Miss Selfridge.

The same day, Next released its full-price sales for the nine weeks to December 26. They fell by 1.1% versus the same period last year, sending the company’s share price soaring by 8% to a five-year high. Shoppers stayed away from perceived ‘busy’ shopping streets due to Covid-19 fears, but stores located in out-of-town retail parks benefited, doing around 15% better than those in city centers and shopping malls.

The flat (-1.1%) performance in the run-up to Christmas was a lot better than the October guidance of an 8% slide, which came as a relief to the market. Next said in a trading statement: “Online business compensated for almost all (that was) lost in retail stores.”

The company has forecast full-year profit before tax will be £342 million ($465 million), and that year-end net debt will be substantially slashed by £487 million to £625 million ($660 million to $850 million). Looking ahead to FY2021/22, Next’s guidance—taking into account closed stores in February and March due to the U.K’s third national lockdown—is for profit before tax of £670 million ($912 million).

An upside-down swan

At savings and investment group Hargreaves Lansdown, Steve Clayton, a fund manager with positions in the fashion chain, commented: “Next looks like an upside-down swan right now. Normally swans glide serenely along the surface, feet paddling furiously beneath. The pandemic has flipped the swan upside-down and it is those feet we are looking at.

“Their frantic activity disguises how effectively Next has managed the pandemic so far. Business in stores has been pretty awful, with lockdowns impacting their ability to trade—a problem Next sees lasting through March. But online has stepped up, growing by 38% in the nine weeks to Boxing Day.”

The pandemic has turned Next into a predominantly online retailer in 2020 and as such it is well prepared for further store disruption, unlike many of its retail rivals. “We like Next both for its online strength, but also its focus on cash flow, which is set to see debts fall by over £400 million in the current year. We see the retailer as well positioned to take advantage,” said Clayton.

Richard Lim, CEO at independent research consultancy Retail Economics, added: “Next leveraged its slick online channel during this vital trading period. The retailer is benefiting from years of investment in online and has proved once again its versatility in dealing with the pandemic. These results are likely to set the tone for a polarized view of the retail sector which separates those having impressive online capabilities from those that do not.”

As for the to-the-wire Brexit agreement, Next said it had not experienced any disruption—with new systems implemented and now operational. The company added: “We do not anticipate that Brexit will have a material impact on our ability to import and export stock in the year ahead. Following the announcement of the free trade deal between the U.K. and EU, we do not anticipate any increase in customs duty costs.”

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