Canadian retail sales continue rising after pandemic plunge


Canadian retail sales for October came in stronger than expected, rising by 0.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that total sales activity for the month hit $54.6 billion, marking the sixth consecutive monthly increase since the record decline in April.

The sales growth was led by motor vehicle and parts dealers, Statistics Canada said. Sales at new car dealerships was up 0.8 per cent.

The consensus expectation of economists had been for sales to rise by 0.2 per cent in October, following the 1.9 per cent jump seen in September.

Sales in British Columbia rose by 2.1 per cent, with health and personal care stores, as well as building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, contributing the most to the increase. In Alberta, sales rose 1.1 per cent on higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

In Ontario, retail activity fell for the first time since April, coinciding with a record number of COVID-19 cases and stricter public health measures within the province. Sales in Ontario were down by 0.4 per cent, with the drop led by clothing and clothing accessories stores.

Statistics Canada said its advance outlook for November is that retail activity is expected to remain relatively unchanged.

“Retail sales achieved a remarkable recovery, having etched out a V-shaped rebound,” BMO economist Priscilla Thiagamoorthy said in a commentary.

“But, with tighter restrictions amid an outbreak in new virus cases, expect some softness in activity in the coming months.”

Derek Holt of Scotiabank Economics pointed out that total sales volumes are now five per cent higher than just before the pandemic hit “and so the overall sector has more than recovered.” 

Factoring out sales of automobiles and gasoline, sales volumes are up by almost eight per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, he said.