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B.C. was biggest provincial drag on Canadian retail sales in August

Forest fires blazing around the province in August may have dampened spending, says expert
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Lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers were a big factor in weak B.C. retail sales in August, Statistics Canada says.

Weak B.C. retail sales in August were the biggest drag on national retail sales that month, according to new Statistics Canada data. 

Within the province, retail sales in Metro Vancouver underperformed other regions, the nation's number crucher determined.

Retail analyst and DIG360 principal David Gray told BIV the many forest fires that were blazing around the province in August may have dampened spending and helped make the province an outlier among provinces in retail spending. 

"As of May, we've started to see a drop in demand across most product categories that are discretionary in Canada," he said. "It's not boding well for a robust end-of-year."

Based on respondent feedback, approximately 12 per cent of Canadian retailers reported that their business activities in August had been affected by the strike at ports in B.C., Statistics Canada said. 

Lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers were big factor in weak B.C. retail sales in August, according to the nation's data collector.

B.C. saw seasonally adjusted retail sales in August fall 1.1 per cent to $9.010 billion, from $9.114 billion in July. The dollar value of that decline was $104 million, which was the highest among provinces, according to Statistics Canada. 

Other provinces that saw retail-sales declines in August, compared with July, were:
• Newfoundland, down 2.8 per cent ($28 million);
• New Brunswick, down one per cent ($14 million); and
• Quebec, down 0.5 per cent ($71 million).

Ontario was virtually flat, with $24.731 billion in sales in August, down $6 million from $24,737 billion in July, according to the data.

Newfoundland was the only province to have a larger percentage decline than B.C. in retail sales in August compared with July, with its 2.8-per-cent decline. 

B.C.'s August retail sales were also the biggest drag on Canadian retail sales in the month on a year-over-year basis.

The province's retail sales in August were down 1.5 per cent in the month, from $9.145 billion in the same month in 2022, or $135 million. 

Canadawide, retail sales were up 1.6 per cent in August, compared with the same month in 2022, or by $1.068 billion.

The only province with a steeper year-over-year, retail-sales decline in August was Saskatchewan where sales fell by $39 milllion to $2.071 billion, or 1.9 per cent. 

Other provinces with year-over-year retail sales declines in August were Newfoundland, down 0.1 per cent, and Manitoba, down 0.1 per cent. 

Vancouver was an anomaly among major Canadian cities, with particularly weak retail sales in August.

Vancouver retail sales fell 1.6 per cent, to $4.464 billion in August, compared with July. The sales were down 2.1 per cent in August, compared with August 2022. 

Larger Canadian cities fared better. 

The Greater Toronto Area's retail sales in August were up 0.3 per cent, compared with July, and 2.6 per cent, compared with the same month in 2022. Montreal's retail sales in August fell by 0.2 per cent compared with July but were up 4.2 per cent, compared with the same month in 2022. 

Canadian retail sales fell 0.1 per cent to $66.1 billion month-over-month in August, according to the data.

The countrywide month-over-month decrease in retail sales in August was led by lower sales in the motor vehicle and parts dealers subsector (down 0.9 per cent) for a second consecutive month. Lower sales were reported at new car dealers (down 1.1 per cent) and used car dealers (down 0.5 per cent). Other motor vehicle dealers (up 1.1 per cent) were the only store type in this subsector to increase in August.

The largest increase in retail sales in August was at gasoline stations and fuel vendors as higher prices helped lift sales in the category 2.8 per cent. In volume terms, sales at gasoline stations and fuel vendors fell 2.9 per cent, Statistics Canada said.

Statistics Canada said its early estimates suggest retail sales were unchanged in September, though it cautioned the reading would be revised.

gkorstrom@biv.com

twitter.com/GlenKorstrom

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