Retail sales rose 0.2 percent to $44.3 billion in May according to data released by Statistics Canada.
Higher sales at food and beverage stores and gasoline stations more than offset lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, with sales up in six of 11 subsectors, representing 51 percent of retail trade.
After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms edged up 0.1 percent in May.
Higher sales at food and beverage stores
Receipts at food and beverage stores were up 2.1 percent, the fourth increase in five months. Following declines in March and April, sales at beer, wine and liquor stores advanced 6.0 percent in May. Supermarkets and other grocery stores posted a 1.6 percent increase. Sales were down at specialty food stores (-1.0 percent) for the third consecutive month. Sales at convenience stores (-0.8 percent) decreased for the first time in four months.
Following a 6.4 percent advance in April, sales at gasoline stations rose 2.3 percent in May, in part due to higher gasoline prices.
Clothing and clothing accessories stores reported a 2.8 percent increase in May, more than offsetting the decline in April. Higher sales were posted at clothing stores (+3.1 percent) and shoe stores (+3.2 percent), while sales at jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores edged down 0.1 percent.
Sales were down for all store types in the motor vehicle and parts dealers subsector (-2.0 percent) in May. The decline in May was largely due to weaker sales at new car dealers (-2.4 percent).
Following a 5.9 percent gain in April, sales at furniture and home furnishings stores declined 3.5 percent in May, as furniture stores (-5.0 percent) and home furnishings stores (-0.7 percent) posted lower sales.
General merchandise stores (-0.5 percent) posted lower sales for the first time in five months.
Sales up in seven provinces
Quebec (+1.0 percent) reported the largest increase in dollar terms, led by stronger sales at food and beverage stores.
Sales rose for the first time in four months in Manitoba (+0.5 percent), as higher sales were reported at supermarkets and other grocery stores.
Newfoundland and Labrador (+1.0 percent) reported the fourth sales gain in five months.
Sales in British Columbia edged up 0.1 percent on the strength of higher sales at gasoline stations and beer, wine and liquor stores.
Following increases in April, sales in Alberta were down 0.4 percent. The decrease was mainly attributable to lower sales at new car dealers, the main retail store type in Alberta affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire and evacuation.
New Brunswick reported a 1.2 percent decline in retail sales, largely stemming from lower sales at new car dealers.
Fort McMurray wildfire and evacuation
When collecting data for the May reference month, the Monthly Retail Trade Survey added three supplementary questions to a provincial sample of about 770 Alberta businesses to assess the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfire, which started in early May 2016.
Overall, 6.8 percent of the sample, or 52 retailers, reported that their business activities in May had been affected by the wildfire and evacuation in the Fort McMurray area. Of these 52 retailers, approximately 38 percent were able to provide an estimate of the impact on sales. Most retailers reported a decline in their sales, while a few others recorded increases. The remaining 62 percent reported an impact on their sales, but could not quantify the effects of the wildfire.
Overall, the impact of the wildfire and evacuation on May retail sales in Alberta was small, as retail sales in Fort McMurray represent approximately 2.8 percent of total retail sales in the province.
Read the July 2016 issue of Business Review USA & Canada magazine