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Has it hit you yet? Have you been bitten by the holiday spirit with just under a week to go in November? For many Canadians, it seems that the warm of fuzzy feelings associated with the holidays are already upon them. The spirit of giving seems to be slowly taking over the country that has battled with a struggling economy over this past year.
According to Sharon Singleton of the QMI Agency – Quebec’s division of Sun Media – retail sales have gained for the seventh time in nine months as of this past September. Her article released earlier today confirms that nearly everything from cars to groceries have experienced a spurt in sales.
Although Statistics Canada reports that sales were 3.3 per cent lower than in September 2008, they had risen by 1 per cent from August 2009. The growth represents double the gain that economists had predicted. “It was a pretty impressive show of strength,” said Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter.
Perhaps the Grinch that is the recession hasn’t completely stolen Christmas from Canadian holiday shoppers after all. Of course, the nation is still doing battle with the harsh economic times, working to recover from the recession. We are still experiencing job loss and the scarcity of new employment opportunities. As a result, slower consumer demand has put a strain on business owners, encouraging many of them to offer discounts on items to lure in customers during the holiday season.
Although spending seems to be on the rise, the sales are still down from a year ago. “That shows there’s still a lot of stress on the consumer,” says Porter. BMO’s surmises that September is Canada’s strongest month of the year in spite of the fact that the growing strength of the Canadian dollar has hurt U.S. demand for Canadian products. Losing business with our biggest trading partner, obviously, does not help the nation’s economy.
Statistics Canada reports that retail sales increased in eight provinces in September, with new cars enjoying the highest growth in sales. The only two provinces to not experience gains were Saskatchewan and Alberta, with the former seeing a decline and the latter seeing a plateau.
Writes Singleton: “Sales of used cars and at parts dealers increased 2%, while sales at food and drink outlets rose 1.3%. General merchandise sales rose 1.9%.”
The sectors that did not gain, she continues, included building and outdoor home supplies as well as clothing and accessories. Both sectors had generally flat sales throughout most of the year.
With another month to go in the year – the month when most consumers do most of their spending – there is hope that the nation will continue to slowly recover from the recession and truly have a happy holiday season.