Canadian retail sales surged nearly 19% in May, still 20% below February levels

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Statistics Canada says retail sales surged 18.7 per cent in May led by motor vehicle and parts sales.

The agency says retail sales increased to $41.8 billion in May but that still left them 20 per cent below levels in February, before physical distancing measures were implemented to fight COVID-19.

Economists on average had expected a 20 per cent increase in May, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

READ MORE: Canada’s wholesale sales higher in May after April’s coronavirus-linked record low

Sales were up in 10 out of 11 subsectors with vehicle and parts dealers, general merchandise stores and clothing stores the main contributors to May’s strength.

The increase in sales followed a record decline of 24.1 per cent in April.

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Statistics Canada says online sales were $3.8 billion in May, accounting for eight per cent of the total retail market.