Retail sales off to a weaker start in Alberta in 2019

StatsCan said sales were down in four of 11 subsectors, representing 52 per cent of retail trade

Retail sales in Alberta fell in January to $6.7 billion, reported Statistics Canada on Friday.

The federal agency said sales in the province were one per cent lower than the previous month and down 0.6 per cent from a year ago.

The trend was also evident nationally as retail sales decreased for the third consecutive month, declining 0.3 per cent to $50.1 billion in January.

StatsCan said sales were down in four of 11 subsectors, representing 52 per cent of retail trade. Lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (-1.5 per cent) contributed to the majority of the decline. Excluding sales in this subsector, retail sales increased 0.1 per cent.

On a year-over-year basis, however, sales across Canada were up 1.1 per cent.

“The January retail numbers were mixed. Declines were only posted in four subsectors, and sales inched up slightly excluding motor vehicle sales. But volume sales were unchanged, and have been essentially unchanged over the last six months,” wrote Nathan Janzen, a senior economist with RBC Economics, in a commentary note.

“Stronger reports for the manufacturing and wholesale sectors still mean that overall GDP growth may have moved back into the positive column in January – even with a pullback in oil production with mandated production cuts in Alberta kicking in.

“But the retail numbers add to the evidence that rising debt service costs and slower housing markets are slowing household spending growth. We still don’t expect a repeat of the Q4 softness – when consumer spending rose just 0.7 per cent (at an annualized rate) and residential investment fell almost 15 per cent. But household spending can no longer be counted on to drive above-trend economic growth in Canada.”

Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary. He writes for Calgary’s Business.


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