Calgary

Alberta retail sales plunge to lowest level in years as vehicle spending declines sharply

Albertans are spending less and less money, particularly on cars, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, which show retail sales falling to lowest level in years.

Sales in the province now at lower level than 5 years ago

Vehicles sit outside a dealership in Calgary in this file photo. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Albertans are spending less and less money, particularly on cars, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, which show retail sales falling to their lowest level in years.

Sales across all retail industries totalled $6.61 billion in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

That's down 0.9 per cent from October, and down three per cent from November 2018.

Sales in the province are now slightly lower than they were five years ago.

Across Canada, by comparison, retail sales are up 20 per cent over that same timeframe.


The biggest decline in November came in the auto sector.

Sales of motor vehicles and parts totalled $1.68 billion for the month, down from $1.87 billion in November 2018.

Virtually every other retail sector in Alberta also saw fewer sales in November compared with a year earlier.

Food and beverage stores were the only sector to see any significant growth.


In inflation-adjusted terms, retail sales in Alberta peaked in late 2014, then plunged during the 2015-16 recession.

Sales started to rebound in the summer of 2016 and continued to grow for the next year and a half.

By 2018, sales had started to plateau and then began to decline.

Those declines have continued — and accelerated — in 2019.

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe noted on Friday that total sales are now "approaching the same level as at the bottom of the recession."

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