Numbers Indicate Crazy Swings

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada indicate some crazy swings in Canadian retail sales, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. For the three months ending April 2021, total retail sales increased by a record breaking 28.3 per cent year-over-year. But there is good reason for it. In the same period last year, sales were significantly depressed as the COVID-19 pandemic began to really impact retail activity. But compared to the same months in 2019, Canadian retail sales gained 5.3 per cent per annum over the two years, a much more normal result. There will likely be more ups and downs in Canadian retail sales in the months ahead. COVID was and is a big shock and it will take some time for retail markets to settle down, he says. Another factor is that the major retail sectors are all showing different instabilities, both positive and negative. The food and drug sector enjoyed record high retail sales increases in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Now, however, things are rapidly coming back down to earth. Retail sales were up only 1.6 per cent year-over-year for the three months ending April 2021. On the other hand, the store merchandise sector has taken off like a rocket. Retail sales gained a 35 per cent year-over-year for the three months ending April, an all-time record. In part at least, this is because year ago sales were significantly down due to COVID and ‘non-essential’ retail closures. Another factor is probably that both retailers and consumers are getting better at online shopping, curbside pickup, and home delivery.