Calgary

Alberta retail sales up 2.4%, driven mostly by vehicle purchases, StatsCan says

A steady climb in Alberta retail sales is a positive sign that consumer confidence is on the rebound, the chief economist at ATB Financial says.

Numbers reveal pent-up demand among consumers, ATB Financial economist says

Retail sales increased by 2.4% in Alberta in January compared to last year, led largely by vehicle sales, Statistics Canada says. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

A steady climb in Alberta retail sales is a positive sign that consumer confidence is on the rebound, the chief economist at ATB Financial says.

Retail sales rose 2.4 per cent in January — the fifth increase in six months, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday. The uptick is mostly due to higher sales of vehicles and parts, the agency said.

ATB's Todd Hirsch said that's an indication Albertans feel as though the worst of the downturn is over.

"So, if you're not confident in your job, you'll delay buying a new vehicle. But if you're feeling, 'OK, things are starting to improve, I'm not as worried about a layoff anymore,' that's when there might be some pent-up consumer demand and that's why we're seeing things like vehicle sales picking up a bit."

Data shows that sales reported by Alberta retailers reached $6.4 billion in January — the highest level in two years, ATB Financial said in a research note on its website.

Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial, says increased consumer spending on vehicles is a sign of confidence that the economy is recovering. (CBC)

Sales reported by vehicle dealerships and parts retailers rose by 12.6 per cent. Gas stations saw a 21.9 per cent bump in sales.  

However, all other types of retailers saw a decline in total sales over the same period, ATB Financial said.

"Still, with mounting consumer optimism in the province, Alberta's retail sector as a whole is expected to perform slightly better than last year," the note said.

Nationally, retail sales rose to $46 billion, up 2.2 per cent from December to January