OTTAWA – Retail sales have returned to the levels last seen a year ago, when the recession began to bite, Statistics Canada reported Monday.
Sales rose 0.8 per cent in October from the previous month to $35.3 billion, the eighth gain in 10 months. The auto sector, especially new cars, led the rebound. Excluding the this sector, sales actually edged down 0.2 per cent in October.
While automotive sales overall grew by three per cent from September, new car sales rose for a sixth consecutive month, gaining 3.6 per cent.
October was the first month this year where the value of new car sales was higher than in 2008.
However, the overall automotive sector was still down six per cent from October 2008, when a global recession and upheaval in the international financial system began to tighten its grip on Canada, drying up demand for cars.
In volume terms, overall retail sales increased 0.6 per cent in October for the month.
The report says the volume of retail sales has returned to a level last seen before the sharp declines in the last two months of 2008.
Sales of used and recreational motor vehicles and parts rose 2.1 per cent for a sixth consecutive month of gains.
Higher sales in five of the seven non-automotive sectors were more than offset by declines of 1.3 per cent in food and beverages and 0.9 per cent in pharmacies and personal care.
Supermarket sales were down 1.1 per cent, partially offsetting September gains. Sales at beer, wine and liquor stores fell 2.2 per after increases in August and September.
The largest increase outside the automotive sector was at clothing and accessories stores, where sales advanced 1.9 per cent, their biggest gain since January 2009.
Sales at clothing stores rose 1.6 per cent after relatively stable sales since May. Shoes, clothing accessories and jewellery sales were up 2.8 per cent for a third consecutive month of strong sales increases.
Building and outdoor home supplies stores saw sales rise 1.2 per cent, led by home centres and hardware stores.
Sales at general merchandisers edged up 0.2 per cent in October after a strong increase in September.
Sales rose in seven provinces, with Ontario’s gain of 1.3 per cent the largest contributor to the overall increase.
Sales were flat in New Brunswick and Quebec in October and down in Prince Edward Island