Canadian Retail Sales Surge, But So Does COVID

Overall Canadian retail sales have moved up smartly in recent months, but it probably won't last, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. A second COVID surge is now prompting a new round of lockdowns, which will possibly be more severe than before. Ontario, which accounts for about 37 per cent of retail sales in Canada, has already announced measures to last until January 23. Over the three months ending October, retail sales were up six per cent year-over-year. This was the highest such result since 2017, but it was not enough to offset the declines earlier in the year. For 2020, year-to-date retail sales are still down 2.5 per cent versus a year ago and things are likely to improve only marginally by year end. After a precipitous decline in the second quarter, the store merchandise sector now seems to be reaching for the top, with retail sales up a very healthy 9.5 per cent for the three months ending October. The three-month trend continues to strengthen and appears to be heading for an all-time high. The underlying 12-month trend is also improving. Many retailer types had strong recent retail sales growth, including general merchandise, furniture stores, electronics and appliance stores, building material and garden equipment/supplies dealers, and even the miscellaneous store retailers. Overall, eCommerce represented about 5.4 per cent of Canadian retail sales for the 12 months ending October. For this period, eCommerce sales were $33.7 billion.