Image of smiling young lady standing in supermarket shop near cashier's desk holding credit card. Looking aside.

Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.3% to $66.1 billion in July, helped by the strength of sales at supermarkets and grocery stores.

However, the agency says its early estimate for August suggests retail sales fell 0.3% for that month, though it cautioned the figure would be revised.

For July, Statistics Canada says sales at food and beverage retailers gained 1.3% as supermarkets and other grocery retailers, except convenience stores, rose 1.5%, and beer, wine and liquor retailers added 1.3%. Sales at general merchandise retailers rose 1.8%.

Meanwhile, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 1.6%, the first decline in four months, as sales at new car dealers dropped 1.7% and used car dealers lost 3.1%.

In a note, Maëlle Boulais-Préseault, economist with Desjardins, suggested that weakness in auto sales in July might have been tied to the port strike in British Columbia.

Core retail sales — which exclude gasoline stations and fuel vendors, and motor vehicle and parts dealers — gained 1.3% in July.

In volume terms, retail sales fell 0.2% in July.

“The retailing data released today reinforce the Bank of Canada’s decision to hold rates steady this month, as past rate hikes seem to be working,” Boulais-Préseault wrote, adding that today’s figures “have pushed down our Q3 2023 real GDP growth tracking slightly, with our estimate now close to 0%.”

She forecast the Bank of Canada would hold its policy rate at 5.00% at its meeting on October 18.