Retail sales fell 2.5% to $61.3 billion in July, the first drop in seven months as sales at gasoline stations and clothing and clothing accessories stores decreased, Statistics Canada said Friday.
The drop was deeper than the 2.0% drop that the agency had predicted in its early estimate for the month, however its initial estimate for August pointed to a gain of 0.4% for the month.
CIBC economist Karyne Charbonneau said retail sales had been more resilient than expected in the past couple of months given high inflation, rising interest rates and a shift to service consumption.
“The weaker-than-expected July data finally provides some evidence that the expected shift away from goods consumption and the impact of higher rates are starting to materialize more meaningfully,” Charbonneau wrote in a report.
“This is the type of data the Bank of Canada will be looking for as it enters what should be the last stage of its hiking cycle. We continue to expect another (half percentage point) increase in October, before further evidence of a cooling economy allows the bank to pause its rate increases.”
The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate target by three-quarters of a percentage point to 3.25% earlier this month in its fight to bring inflation under control. The Canadian central bank’s next interest rate decision is scheduled for Oct. 26 when it will also publish its updated forecast for the economy in its monetary policy report.
Statistics Canada said Friday retail sales in July were down in nine of the 11 subsectors it tracks, representing 94.5% of retail trade.
Sales at gasoline stations fell 14.2% for the month as gasoline prices fell 9.2% and sales at gasoline stations in volume terms decreased 7.0 per cent.
Meanwhile, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores dropped 3.3% as clothing store sales fell 3.3% and shoe stores slipped 6.5%. Jewelry, luggage and leather goods stores lost 0.6%.
The miscellaneous stores category, which includes pet stores, cannabis stores and office supplies and stationery stores, saw sales rise 0.7%.
Core retail sales — which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers — fell 0.9%.
In volume terms, retail sales fell 2.0% in July.