Alberta retail sales surge past pre-recession levels

Albertans are spending again, in numbers not seen since before the recession.

Sustained growth over the past year led by increased spending on motor vehicles and parts

Retail sales in Alberta have grown in 10 of the past 11 months, according to seasonally adjusted data from Statistics Canada, led by growth in the sale of motor vehicles and auto parts. (Associated Press)

Albertans are spending again, in numbers not seen since before the recession.

"Retail sales in Alberta have now surpassed the level prior to the downturn in world oil prices in late 2014," Statistics Canada said Tuesday as it released the latest spending data.

June sales grew by one per cent over May, on a seasonally adjusted basis, marking the 10th monthly increase in the past 11 months.

Unadjusted sales figures for May and June, meanwhile, were the highest on record for the province, clocking in each month above $7.4 billion.

Those numbers are welcome news for the developer behind the soon-to-open New Horizons Mall north of Calgary. 

"Perfect timing, perfect news, good news for the mall," said Eli Swirsky, president of the Torgan Group. 

The mall is a condo-style concept where each vendor buys their own space and pays monthly fees.

Vehicles, parts and more

Alberta's growth was led by increased spending on motor vehicles and parts, which totalled $2.39 billion in June, up 24.1 per cent from a year before.

Spending on electronics and appliances, building and garden supplies, health and personal care and general retail goods all grew by more than 10 per cent from June 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

The only retail category that didn't see an increase was furniture and home furnishings, in which sales were down 3.6 per cent from the same month last year.

'We were very pleased'

Swirsky says more than 95 per cent of the 500 spots at New Horizons, including stores and eateries, have been sold. The mall is scheduled to open in March. 

"When we launched the concept in Calgary we were expecting a favourable response, and when we got it we were very pleased."

Economist Todd Hirsch with ATB Financial expects the economy will gradually rebound over the next few years.

"So in the long run, it might end up being the very best time to start in and get into the market," he said.