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Retail sales rose 3.2% in January, StatCan reports

Retail sales rose 3.2 per cent to $58.9 billion in January, Statistics Canada said Friday.
Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 3.2 per cent to $58.9 billion in January, helped by sales at new car dealers to start the year. Vehicles are seen in a parking lot at the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant in Oshawa, Ont., on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

OTTAWA — Retail sales rose 3.2 per cent to $58.9 billion in January, even with public health restrictions in several parts of the country to deal with the Omicron surge in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year, Statistics Canada said Friday.

However, the agency said its early estimate for February suggests retail sales fell 0.5 per cent for that month, though it cautioned the figure will be revised.

BMO economist Shelly Kaushik said retail sales, which fell in December, posted an impressive rebound in January, despite the persistent restrictions and pandemic concerns.

"Still, it looks like activity pulled back in February, likely with some diversion into services spending as restrictions loosened in that month," Kaushik wrote in a report.

"Overall, consumer demand remains robust, even as another month of strong inflation eroded some purchasing power."

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate for February rose to 5.7 per cent compared with a year-over-year rise in the consumer price index of 5.1 per cent in January.

Statistics Canada said Friday retail sales were up in nine of the 11 subsectors it tracks.

The rise in January was led by an improvement at motor vehicle and parts dealers which gained 5.3 per cent helped by a 5.5 per cent increase at new car dealers and a 9.7 per cent rise at used car dealers. Sales at gasoline stations were unchanged in January.

Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, retail sales rose 2.9 per cent.

Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers gained 8.9 per cent, while sales at food and beverage stores rose 2.2 per cent.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw sales fall 3.5 per cent.

In volume terms, overall retail sales rose 2.9 per cent in January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2022.

The Canadian Press