October retail sales in Alberta end two-year slide

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Retail sales in Alberta reached $6.7 billion in October, up 0.4 per cent from the previous month, according to a report released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The federal agency said the increase came after retail sales in the province had fallen below levels last reported in August 2017.

“Despite the gain, the level of retail sales in Alberta remains below all levels recorded in 2018 and most of 2019,” said StatsCan, adding that sales were down overall by 0.2 per cent year-over-year.

In Canada, retail sales decreased 1.2 per cent to $50.9 billion in October and Statistics Canada said the decline was primarily due to lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers.

Lower sales were reported in eight of 11 subsectors, representing 81 per cent of retail trade. After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms decreased 1.4 per cent, it said.

On an annual basis, sales were down by 0.6 per cent.

“The decline leaves overall sales activity below year-ago levels for only the second time since the financial crisis (there was a one-month stint in December 2012) . . . The Canadian retail numbers can sometimes get wonky heading into the holiday and turn of the year. But, still, the bigger picture is that the consumer simply looks tired,” Robert Kavcic, Senior Economist, with BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a commentary note.

With the exception of housing markets, Canadian economic releases in the past few weeks have been unambiguously negative, said Omar Abdelrahman, Economist with TD Economics.

“This one is no different. As a result, we are expecting a continued tepid performance for the Canadian economy in the fourth quarter.This release adds some modest downside risk to our 1.2 per cent real GDP tracking for the quarter,” he said in a commentary note.

“Retail sales are on track to record the weakest performance since the financial crisis. This is notably disappointing considering the surge in population growth that Canada has been seeing of late. The sector continues to face the cross-currents of high household debt servicing costs against the tailwinds of improving housing markets and firming wage growth. We expect these tailwinds to provide only a modest uptick in the months ahead.”

© Calgary’s Business

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