Retail sales rose 3.2% to $58.9 billion in January, even with public health restrictions in several parts of the country to deal with the Omicron surge in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year, Statistics Canada said. However, the agency said its early estimate for February suggests retail sales fell 0.5% for that month, though it cautioned the figure will be revised.
BMO economist Shelly Kaushik said retail sales, which fell in December, posted an impressive rebound in January, despite the persistent restrictions and pandemic concerns. “Still, it looks like activity pulled back in February, likely with some diversion into services spending as restrictions loosened in that month,” Kaushik wrote in a report. “Overall, consumer demand remains robust, even as another month of strong inflation eroded some purchasing power.”
On March 18th Statistics Canada announced that retail sales were up in nine of the 11 subsectors it tracks. The rise in January was led by an improvement at motor vehicle and parts dealers which gained 5.3% helped by a 5.5% increase at new car dealers and a 9.7% rise at used car dealers. Sales at gasoline stations were unchanged in January.
Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, retail sales rose 2.9%. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers gained 8.9%, while sales at food and beverage stores rose 2.2%. Clothing and clothing accessories. In volume terms, overall retail sales rose 2.9% in January.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were up 8.3% in January. On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were down 14.4% year-over-year to $3.2 billion in January, accounting for 6.3% of total retail trade. The share of e-commerce sales out of total retail sales fell 1.8% compared with January 2021, when retailers were mandated to close their brick and mortar stores to in-person shopping in many regions across the country.