Business

Retail sales up 4.8% in February, boosted by car dealers, gas stations

Canadian retail sales climbed in February, boosted by sales at new car dealerships, gas stations and clothing stores, but economists cautioned the pandemic's third wave will again dent sales.

Numbers expected to regress in April amid pandemic's 3rd wave

Statistics Canada says retail sales rose in February, partly due to good results at gas stations. (Don Pittis/CBC)

Canadian retail sales climbed in February, boosted by sales at new car dealerships, gas stations and clothing stores, but economists cautioned the pandemic's third wave will again dent sales.

Statistics Canada said Wednesday that retail sales rose 4.8 per cent to $55.1 billion in February, while core retail sales — which exclude gas stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers — climbed 3.8 per cent in February, the first increase in three months.

It also said that its preliminary estimate for March suggested a gain of 2.3 per cent for the month, but cautioned the figure would be revised.

TD Bank economist Ksenia Bushmeneva said retail sales rebounded in February, and likely in March, amid the easing of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the pandemic.

"However, progress remains highly dependent on the path of the virus, which has since taken a turn for the worse as a vicious third wave led to higher caseloads and hospitalizations," Bushmeneva wrote in a report.

Governments across the country have imposed a fresh round of restrictions in recent weeks in an attempt to slow a surge in COVID-19 cases even as vaccination rates pick up.

"Recent spending and mobility data suggests that retail sales are likely to weaken once again in April amid renewed restrictions and stay-at-home orders," Bushmeneva wrote.

'Big-time reversal' expected for April

Benjamin Reitzes, director of Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Capital Markets, said retail sales continue to perform well when stores are allowed to open.

"Accordingly, another good gain is expected in March, but April will see a big-time reversal with restrictions tightened in much of the country," Reitzes said.

Statistics Canada said sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers rose five per cent in February, boosted by a 5.6 per cent increase at new car dealers and a 9.2 per cent increase at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores.

Boosting core retail sales was a 6.1 per cent gain at general merchandise stores.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores also rose 23.7 per cent, the first gain for the category since September 2020, as clothing store sales rose 20.8 per cent, shoe store sales added 43.1 per cent and the jewelry, luggage and leather goods subcategory climbed 25.4 per cent.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores saw a 23.5 per cent increase in sales for the month, while furniture and home furnishings stores gained 18 per cent.

In volume terms, overall retail sales rose 4.3 per cent in February.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now