Retail Sales Getting Back To Pre-pandemic Times


The latest data from StatsCan show a big recovery in Canadian retail sales. In the second quarter of 2021, total overall sales were up 25.4 per cent year-over-year, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. However, retail conditions are still very much unsettled. The impact of the next COVID wave and/or variant is essentially unpredictable. There are also huge sales swings in every major retail sector. The store merchandise sector seems to be back with a vengeance, with year-over-year retail sales up 23 per cent in the quarter. As non-essential retailers and malls re-open for business, it seems that consumers are catching up on shopping needs they may have been putting off. Interestingly, the boom in eCommerce retail sales appears to be slowing somewhat at the same time. However, decreasing for the third consecutive month, sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers fell 3.1 per cent. In June, 5.3 per cent of retailers in this subsector reported being closed for at least one day. The hot current sales growth rates do not mean that good times are here again, it's more of a reflection of how bad things were a year ago due to COVID. In the second quarter, total retail sales were $173.8 billion, well up from $138.6 billion in 2020, which itself was well down from $162.7 billion in 2019. “In other words, we're just getting back to around where we were two years ago, in pre-pandemic times, plus a little inflation and population growth,” he says.