Alberta retail sector continues to grow

The majority of the provincial gain stemmed from higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations: StatsCan

The retail sector in Alberta is enjoying some good times.

Data released on Wednesday by Statistics Canada indicated that retail sales in the province reached $6.9 billion in March, which was up 2.4 per cent from the previous month and an increase of 2.1 per cent year over year.

“Total retail sales increased for the second consecutive month in Alberta (+2.4 per cent) on the strength of higher sales in all subsectors. The majority of the provincial gain stemmed from higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations,” said the federal agency.

Throughout Canada, StatsCan said retail sales increased for the second consecutive month, rising 1.1 per cent to $51.3 billion in March. Sales were higher in seven of 11 subsectors, representing 39 per cent of retail trade.

Higher sales at gasoline stations and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were the main contributors to the increase.

After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms were up 0.3 per cent, it said.

On an annual basis, sales were up 2.6 per cent across the country.

“On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.6 billion in March, accounting for 3.1 per cent of total retail trade, compared with 2.0 per cent of total retail trade in March 2016 – the year when official monthly statistics for retail e-commerce were first published. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 20.0 per cent, while total unadjusted retail sales increased 1.9 per cent,” added the federal agency.

The solid retail sales headline continues the string of decent Canadian data, bouncing back from a weak February, said Benjamin Reitzes, an economist with BMO, in a commentary note.

“While a stabilizing housing market should help confidence, elevated household debt burdens will likely consumer spending growth contained,” he said.

Omar Abdelrahman, an economist with TD Economics, said March’s retail sales increase was not sufficient to change an overall poor first quarter performance, which ended with nominal retail sales up a modest 0.1 per cent and volumes down 0.1 per cent.

“Like other recent data releases, the March uptick points to improving momentum heading into quarter two. Additionally, some details in the report, including an increase in clothing and housing-related retail sales (both in nominal and real terms), and the broad-based composition of the gains, point to a potentially improving domestic demand picture heading into the next quarter,” he said.

– Mario Toneguzzi


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