Business in Vancouver

Retail sales strong across BC year-over-year in September

Top spending Canadian provinces also leading in job growth, say economists

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 10:41am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 10:43am

By Emma Crawford Hampel

Retail sales were up 5.7 per cent year-over-year in BC in September, according to Statistics Canada data released November 22, giving the province the second highest increase in the country, after Prince Edward Island (up 6.9 per cent).

Compared with August, sales were up 0.9 per cent in BC.

Across Canada, retail sales increased 2.5 per cent year-over-year and 0.6 per cent compared with August. The nationwide gain was due to a 2.4 per cent jump sales of motor vehicles and parts in September. This was the sector’s first increase in three months. Excluding this sector, however, retail sales across Canada were flat.

Gasoline sales increased 0.9 per cent across Canada due to higher pump prices. General merchandise sales increased 0.4 per cent, reversing a loss in August.

Food and beverage sales fell 0.8 per cent due to lower sales at grocery stores (down 0.7 per cent) and liquor stores (down 1.8 per cent). As well, food prices decreased 0.9 per cent year-over-year, which was the first yearly decline in this category since March 2008.

Douglas Porter, chief economist for BMO Financial Group, said increases across the country were very much a “regional story.”

“The weakest sales in the country are in the three oil-producing provinces, with Alberta sales down 2.4 per cent year-over-year, followed by tiny gains in Saskatchewan (up 0.2 per cent) and Newfoundland (up 0.6 per cent),” Porter said in a note to investors.

“At the top of the spectrum, the three provinces leading the way in job growth are also, not surprisingly, leading the way in retail spending growth. After tiny PEI, the leaders are BC, Quebec (up 3.7 per cent) and Ontario (up 2.9 pr cent).

The Canadian dollar dipped four-tenths of a cent on the data release, settling around 74.35 cents US as of press time. Nick Exarhos, economist at CIBC, said this was in reaction to the “disappointing” ex-autos numbers.

“Volumes were up by a solid 0.6 per cent in September, but that won’t change the monthly GDP outlook much after we already had weak readings in the books for manufacturing and wholesale trade,” Exarhos said. “As a result, we’re likely headed for relatively unchanged reading for monthly output.

“We’re expecting more out of shoppers heading into the fourth quarter, since it’s unlikely families will stash away the entirety of those family benefit cheques which are boosting year-on-year disposable income growth by around 0.5 per cent.”