Canadian retail sales increased 2.1% month over month in August 2021 and 8.4% year over year, according to Statistics Canada’s Friday release of August 2021 retail sales numbers (seasonally adjusted). Core retail (retail minus gasoline and motor vehicle) sales increased by 2.7% from July 2021 and were up 5.8% compared to August 2020. News from the provinces was also positive: sales were up in every province for the first time since June 2020.
The national core retail sales increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores, that sector’s first monthly increase in three months (4.8% MoM, 1.5% YoY). Surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the second month in a row and hitting their highest level on record, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 3.9% MoM in August (19.6% YoY).
In contrast, furniture and home furnishings stores reported the largest decrease MoM, -2.4%, driven by lower MoM sales at furniture stores that coincided with furniture supply constraints. However, YoY furniture and home furnishings sales still showed a 14.1% increase.
Friday’s release indicated that strong, pent-up consumer demand materialized in August to support some subsectors hard-hit by the pandemic, such as apparel, as the economy re-opened nationally. Supply constraints were and still remain an issue. It also bears remembering that there are many variations among retailers within these general categories: for example, apparel retailers with most of their stores near downtown office towers or in plazas near border crossing and cruise hubs may not have fared as well as others in August. For September 2021, StatCan forecasted a decline of -1.9% MoM in total retail sales.