Canadian monthly retail sales topped their pre-pandemic levels for the first time in June as more parts of the country moved ahead with plans to reopen their economies, Statistics Canada said Friday.
Retail sales soared 23.7% in June to $53.0 billion, while the agency also revised its reading for May to show a gain of 21.2%, up from its earlier estimate of 18.7%.
Statistics Canada said the June sales were 1.3% higher than in February, the last month before broad shutdowns were ordered by public health officials to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Economists on average had expected an increase of 24.5% for June, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
TD Bank economist Ksenia Bushmeneva said the rebound in retail sales looked “pretty V-shaped,” a reference to a quick recovery from a sharp decline.
“Sales continued their recovery in June alongside the reopening process, regaining all ground lost in the pandemic and then some,” Bushmeneva wrote in a report.
“Strong motor vehicles continue to supercharge the sales numbers. Significant pent-up demand is also giving a boost to several other categories, such as clothing and furniture, where the impact of the mandatory shutdowns was most extensive.”
Despite the large gains, the trend sales seen in May and June are not expected to continue. Statistics Canada said early estimates suggest retail sales increased by 0.7% in July.
“The stalling of momentum in retail sales to begin the second half, and potential for backsliding after pent-up demand is satisfied, paints a picture of a long and bumpy road ahead for the economy,” said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.
“That said, the extension and augmentation of some unemployment benefits will help support household spending, offsetting some of the drag from the still-high unemployment rate.”
Retail sales in June were up across all of the subsectors with the motor vehicle and parts dealers group up 53.4%.
Sales at non-essential retailers also surged higher, with clothing and clothing accessories stores posting a 142.3% gain in June.
Furniture and home furnishing stores saw sales rise 70.9%, while building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers added 13.0%. Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores rose 64.9%.
For the second quarter, Statistics Canada said retail sales were down 13.3% compared with the first quarter.