BC Consumers Are Out Spending

By Ken Peacock

Retail spending in BC continues to grow at a healthy pace. Just released data from Statistics Canada shows retail sales in September were up 6.0% over the same month last year. This is the strongest annual gain among the provinces and stands in sharp contrast to Alberta’s 5.6% drop in retail spending.

The buoyant overall consumer marketplace in BC is also confirmed by solid increases across all segments of retail. Total spending in the automobile sector is up 7.7% y/y. A similar gain is evident in home furnishings. Reflecting BC’s robust housing market, sales in building material stores are up a whopping 17%. Spending in food and beverage outlets jumped 10% over the past year, while sales in clothing stores are up 19%. The only segment of retail to register an annual decline is gas stations, which saw sales drop by almost 12%. That, however, is solely a result of lower prices: in September (the month the retail sales data refer to) the price of gasoline, as measured by the BC consumer price index, was down 15% from the previous year.

The bottom line is that retail spending in BC is posting significant gains, suggesting that consumers generally are feeling pretty good about the province’s prospects notwithstanding weak commodity markets and a soft global economy.