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​Retail Sales Weak in April

Jun 21, 2019

The Conference Board of Canada’s Senior Economist Constantinos Bougas offers the following insights on today's release of data on retail trade:

“Today’s Statistics Canada release showed retail sales edging up a mere 0.1 per cent in April. This followed strong back-to-back gains in February and March, so a slowdown was not surprising. The picture is less encouraging when taking into account the effects of price changes, as sales (in volume terms) fell 0.2 per cent in April. In fact, sales volumes have been soft for approximately 2 years, up only 1.2 per cent since April 2017. But with the Bank of Canada expected to stay on the sidelines the rest of this year, and with employment and wage growth posting solid gains in recent months, retail spending should pick up over the rest of 2019.”

Insights

  • Retail sales increased for a third consecutive month in April, but the increase was limited to 0.1 per cent.
  • Retail sales fell 0.1 per cent when excluding sales of motor vehicles, parts dealers and gasoline stations.
  • Sales at cannabis stores continues to post impressive growth; they were up 22.5 per cent on the month in April and are up 80.1 per cent since this category started being tracked last October 2018.
  • Year-over-year gains were stronger, with retail sales increasing by 3.7 per cent.
  • After adjusting for inflation, retail sales volumes decreased by 0.2 per cent.
  • Retail sales increased strongly in Toronto and Montreal year-over-year. Retail sales in Toronto rose by 8.5 per cent, while they rose by 6.7 per cent in Montreal.
  • On the other hand, retail sales declined by 4.4 per cent in Vancouver.
  • Overall, The Conference Board of Canada expects retail sales in Toronto and Vancouver to increase at a stronger pace in 2019 than in 2018.
  • Despite strong gains year-over-year, in April, slower job growth and softer real after-tax income gains should cool retail sales growth in Montreal in 2019.