Promising End to 2021
Original release date: February 18, 2022
Unlike its US counterpart, Canadian retail ended the holiday season with more sales in December than November. All Stores grew by 8.6%, with All Stores Less Automotive growing by 5.9% and All Stores Less Automotive, Food, and Pharmacies growing by 9.9% over December 2020.
While Clothing and Accessories Stores and Clothing Stores in particular saw excellent growth this month, at 36.4% and 41.2% year-over-year, respectively, both categories were actually down from 2019. 2021 was not as severe as 2020 in terms of store closures, which is why this year grew so much more than last year. However, there is still hope for the sector yet, especially as the work-from-home trend slows down.
General Merchandise Stores also saw strong growth this month at 12.2% year-over-year and 17.6% over 2019, both very healthy numbers. The category did not see huge losses during the pandemic, and many were allowed to remain open as essential services (e.g., Dollarama). Some of the ways that General Merchandise retailers remained on top include chartering ships, which is what Canadian Tire did to keep shelves stocked. The company ended 2021 with a Q4 sales growth of 11%.
Regionally, the distribution of sales still follows COVID-19 cases, with Ontario consistently the softest. Despite the flooding, BC and Vancouver still grew year-over-year (not displayed). Additionally, high gas prices throughout 2021 helped Alberta and the Prairies end the year with a 13% growth year-to-date where in 2020 and 2019 they were both among the weakest regions.
2021 had its high and lows, but overall, we are finally starting to see solid recovery. However, with the omicron variant on the horizon and more shutdowns in Ontario in January, a strong start to 2022 could be at risk.