Propelled by strong spending growth, the total value of retail sales in BC surpassed the $70 billion mark in 2015. Sales at stores, malls and shops are growing at a healthy clip and are a significant factor underpinning BC’s solid overall economic performance. BC’s economy is somewhat out of sync with other provinces, which is reflected in the retail sales data showing that British Columbians have stepped up retail purchases over the past couple years even as consumer spending in other provinces has generally downshifted. BC retail spending increased 6.8% last year, the strongest gain among all provinces and more than three times the growth seen at the national level.
BC retailers have seen gains across all segments. Housing has played an important role in buoying the retail environment in BC: the biggest spending gains last year came in the building materials and garden supplies sector (+ 23%). A 12% increase in sales at furniture and home furnishing stores was the second biggest gain among the various retail segments. The automobile sector also posted an impressive 9.5% increase, which was the strongest growth in at least a decade. The only retail segment to record a reduction last year was gas stations, where the dollar value of receipts fell 9.7% -- reflecting the impact of lower gasoline prices in 2015.