P.E.I. retailers, restauranteurs raise a glass to a good year

Retailers on P.E.I. marked a milestone in 2017, and restaurant and bar owners enjoyed a rebound after a flat year in 2016.
Statistics Canada said that in 2017, retail sales, seasonally adjusted, topped $200 million for the first time in March and repeated that performance in April, May and October. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Retailers on P.E.I. marked a milestone in 2017, and restaurant and bar owners enjoyed a rebound after a flat year in 2016.

Statistics Canada said retail sales, seasonally adjusted, topped $200 million for the first time in March and repeated that performance in April, May and October. P.E.I.'s growth in retail sales surpassed the Canadian average, according to StatsCan.

Big box stores continue to draw customers, but the number of independent stores is rising fast.

Paul Trainor, president and general manager of the P.E.I. Small Business Federation, said much of the growth can be attributed to immigrants coming to the Island and opening businesses.

"We're seeing the immigrant population coming in and starting up specialty shops, like hardware stores and specialty food stores and clothing stores ... so now we're seeing people wanting to get that specialized service, better service, better quality, better selection instead of just the cookie cutter mode of the big box stores," Trainor said.

After suffering through doldrums in 2016, food service sales began to rebound in February and have been on an upward trend since.

Food service sales are up 4.8 per cent to the end of October as compared to 2016, and retail sales are up eight per cent.

The small business federation says the number of retailers on its membership rolls grew about nine per cent this year and Trainor expects even more next year.

"We've seen an increase in the numbers of our membership, roughly about eight or nine per cent growth in the retail sector last year," he said. "But we anticipate that next year we're going to see much more, probably about 10 or 15 per cent more members in that sector than we certainly did last year."

With files from Brian Higgins and Kevin Yarr