Retail sales fell in August and were flat in September as consumers closed

Retail sales fell by 0.1 per cent to $66.1 billion in August, Statistics Canada reported Friday, adding that advanced estimates for September look like no growth, too.

The data agency says six of the nine subsectors it tracks were lower.

Sales at gas stations, health and personal care stores and general merchandise stores grew, but every other type of retailer saw sales decline.

Statscan says a port strike in British Columbia was a factor in the numbers, as about 12 per cent of retailers said they were impacted by the weeks-long labour impasse.

Overall retail sales were down by 0.1 per cent but in volume terms, they actually declined by even more: 0.7 per cent.

So-called core sales were also lower. If sales at gas stations and car dealerships are stripped out, retail sales were down by 0.3 per cent.

Sales at gas stations increased by 2.8 per cent during the month, but only because of higher prices. In volume terms, sales were down by 2.9 per cent.

Online sales were also lower, down 2 per cent to $3.9 billion.

Advanced readings for September suggest sales didn’t increase the next month either, as with more than a third of the data compiled it looks like sales were flat — at best — for the month. 

“Our calculations suggest that implies a 0.1per cent  contraction in sales volumes for the final month of Q3,” Desjardins economist Tiago Figueiredo said. “Keep in mind that these numbers would be even weaker were it not for the rapid pace of population growth in Canada.”

Economist Shelley Kaushik says the numbers paint a picture of consumers that are finally starting to tap out in the face of high prices and a cooling economy.

“Sluggish sales volumes suggest consumers are losing the wind in their sails, keeping the broader economy on track to stagnate through the rest of the year, ” she said. “The soft report is yet one more reason to expect the Bank of Canada to keep policy rates on hold at next week’s meeting.”


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