Statistics Canada says April retail sales up 0.9 per cent at $44.3 billion

OTTAWA – Retail sales in Canada climbed in April, boosted by higher prices at the gas pump, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The agency said retail sales rose 0.9 per cent to $44.3 billion in April, in line with the expectations of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters and reversing a drop of 0.8 per cent in March.

However, excluding sales at gasoline stations, which climbed 6.0 per cent, retail sales were up just 0.4 per cent for the month.

Bank of Montreal senior economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that volumes rose just 0.1 per cent as prices were meaningfully higher in the month.

“With the manufacturing and wholesale data already in hand, April GDP looks to be on track for a 0.1 per cent to 0.2 per cent increase,” Reitzes wrote in a note to clients.

“While that’s a decent start to the second quarter, recall that the (Alberta) wildfires are going to weigh very heavily on May GDP and, in turn, the quarter.”

Retail sales were up in seven of 11 subsectors.

In addition to the gain at gasoline filling stations, sales at furniture and home furnishings stores climbed 6.1 per cent.

Sales at general merchandise stores gained 1.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores dropped 2.7 per cent and motor vehicle and parts dealers sales fell 0.3 per cent.

CIBC economist Nick Exarhos noted the drop in auto sales was a slight disappointment.

“Still, car lot spending has been an area of particular strength over the past year, with new car dealers reporting a greater than eight per cent year-on-year advance,” Exarhos said.

“However, we don’t think there’s much room to head higher from here. Spending on big ticket items is vulnerable to a replenishing of savings, with the savings rate edging to a slim 3.9 per cent in the first quarter.”

Retail sales increased in every province, except Manitoba where they fell 0.9 per cent due to lower sales at new car dealers.

British Columbia gained 2.4 per cent as it posted the largest increase in dollar terms, while Alberta climbed 2.0 per cent, the first increase in five months.

Ontario gained 0.4 per cent and Quebec edged up 0.1 per cent.