Retail sales jumped 23% in June, enough to get back above where they were before COVID-19

Canadian retailers racked up $53 billion in sales in June, a 23 per cent rise from May and enough to put the figure above where it was in February before COVID-19 walloped Canada's economy.

Sales rose in every province led by booming sales of discretionary items like clothes, books

Retail sales bounced back in a big way in June after COVID-19 locked down much of the economy in previous months. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Canadian retailers racked up $53 billion in sales in June, a 23 per cent rise from May and enough to put the figure above where it was in February before COVID-19 walloped Canada's economy.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that sales were up in all types of stores, but cars and car parts, along with clothing and accessories, led the way.

Sales were 1.3 per cent higher in May than they were in February, the month before large swaths of Canada's economy including retailers shut down to try to contain the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. Retail sales fell by about a third from February through April, before beginning a rebound in May and into June.

Sales of essentials, such as food and medical products, held fairly steady in the early days of the pandemic, as Canadians shopped online for things they deemed necessities but didn't spend much on anything else.

That trend bounced back in a big way in June as sales of discretionary items saw some of the biggest gains including:

  • Clothing stores, up 142.3 per cent.
  • Furniture and home furnishings, up 70.9 per cent.
  • Building and garden supply stores, up 13 per cent.
  • Cars and car parts, up 53 per cent.
  • Hobby, book and music stores rose by 64.9 per cent. 

The June numbers mean that sales in all those types of stores had surpassed the level they were at before the pandemic hit. 

"It's a V-shaped recovery for retail sales despite all the doom and gloom in recent months," Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes said in a research note. "Hard to believe anyone would have expected this just a few months ago."

Ontario leads gains

Sales rose in every province, but as TD Bank economist Ksenia Bushmeneva noted, June's figure's were given a boost by the delayed reopening in two of Canada's hardest hit and most populated provinces.

"There was also a significant regional story to June's numbers, with Ontario and Quebec — provinces that were more hard-hit by the pandemic — moving further along their reopening processes," she said. "[But] those eye-popping gains are not expected to last."

E-commerce continued to do very well, with online sales clocking in at $3.2 billion for the month. That's an increase of 70 per cent from the level of a year earlier.

That figure does not include sales at online selling giant, since the data agency does not consider Amazon to be a retailer because it does not have physical locations in Canada. Instead, those sales are booked as wholesale sales.

Overall, retail sales are not just higher than they were before COVID-19, but they're also now 3.8 per cent higher than where they were a year ago, in June 2019.


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