Canadian retail sales remain virtually flat in April

Canadian retail sales remained mostly flat in April, according to StatCan. REUTERS/Mark Makela/File Photo

Retail sales edged up a mere 0.1 per cent in April to $51.5 billion, with sales of gasoline and food and beverages driving most of the gain, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

In volume terms, sales across the economy were down 0.2 per cent. Excluding activity at gasoline stations and vehicle and auto-parts dealers, sales dipped 0.1 per cent.

But the underlying trends may be better than the ho-hum headline data would suggest, CIBC economist Royce Mendes said in a note to clients.

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The latest virtually flat reading comes after a leap forward in March when sales rose 1.3 per cent month over month. And the weakness in April’s retail sales appears to be concentrated, with growth in seven out of 11 categories, representing 74 per cent of all retail trade.

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Sales activity at clothing and clothing accessories stores as well as building material and garden equipment dealers was mostly responsible for holding back the overall sales figure, Mendes noted. Both sectors might have suffered because of colder-than-usual weather in April, suggesting that the weakness may prove transitory, he added.

“Overall, combined with a slight upward revision to March, today’s retail sales report is stronger than the meek headline gain,” Mendes wrote.

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