Retail Sales Start To Crawl Back

Although Canadian retail sales are still in bad shape for the most part, there are signs that things are beginning to turn around. However, there's still a long way to go and they may never get back to the old pre-pandemic normal, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. In the second quarter, total retail sales declined 14.5 per cent year-over-year. While this is probably the worst quarter ever, it's actually not as bad as the previous three-month average. Perhaps better still is that retail sales for June alone were up 4.8 per cent versus a year ago on an unadjusted basis. This comes after being down an average of 20 per cent over March to May. General merchandise stores appear to be getting through the pandemic period in relatively good shape. Their sales were up 6.4 per cent, well ahead of the overall retail average. This group includes combination stores like Costco and Walmart which are also major food retailers, as well as larger operators like Canadian Tire and Hudson's Bay which may have more developed eCommerce capabilities. Home furnishings stores were down 38.2 per cent. eCommerce sales were up 102.3 per cent or double year-over-year in the second quarter. This may cool off somewhat once pandemic conditions subside, but it's unlikely that all of it will return to bricks-and-mortar shopping, he says.