Retail sales inch higher to $49B in June

Canadian retailers reported higher sales for the fourth straight month in June, as just about everything except cars, car parts and gasoline stations saw higher sales.

Online sales are growing five times faster than conventional retail is

Canadian retailers reported higher sales for the fourth straight month in June, as just about everything except cars and gasoline stations saw higher sales.

Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that sales at general merchandise stores rose 2.9 per cent in June, while clothing and accessories stores saw a 2.7 per cent gain. Building material and garden supply stores saw 2.2 per cent higher sales.

On the downside, sales of cars and car parts fell by 1.4 per cent, and sales at gasoline stations went down by 1.8 per cent. That's the second month in row that gas stations have seen lower sales. But "stripping out both of those items, sales ... were up a very strong 1.1 per cent," Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic noted, "casting a positive tone on the report."

Provincial breakdown

Just as not all types of stores saw higher sales, so too was there a split along provincial lines. British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador all saw higher sales. Everywhere else, the retail sales figure dropped from May's level, but "the real emerging story has been a turnaround in Alberta," Kavcic noted. 

Sales in the province have now risen by more than 10 per cent in the past year, second only to B.C.'s figure "as spending has blown past pre-oil shock levels," Kavcic said. "While strong fundamentals in the big-three provinces are helping to drive solid national trends, the reversal of a major headwind blowing out of Alberta has also helped in a big way."

Bricks and mortar stores by and large saw higher sales, but online sales grew at a much faster pace.

Canadian retailers sold $1.2 billion worth of merchandise in June, about 2.2 per cent of all sales. But e-commerce is taking a bigger bite of the overall retail market. In the 12 months up to June, e-commerce has grown by 43 per cent, while conventional retail has only grown by about 8 per cent, the data agency reported.