Following an unusually weak period in 2013, retail spending in BC has steadily strengthened and is now growing at the strongest annual pace since the 2010 Olympics. The total value of retail sales surged in May by 8.3% over the same month of last year. What’s more, BC is now leading the country in the growth of retail sales at a time when activity has slowed markedly in some other provinces. In Alberta and Saskatchewan retail sales are now well below year-ago levels, even on a non-inflated adjusted basis. Canada-wide growth in retail sales is running around 2.5%. Sales in BC are growing at about three times the national pace. Ontario is quite closely aligned with BC as retailers there are seeing spending growth of about 5%.
With the exception of gas stations, all the major segments of BC’s retail industry have enjoyed healthy gains this year. One of the strongest increases is vehicles. Spending on automobiles jumped 11% over the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2014. And the gains in this area alone account for one-third of the total increase in retail spending in the past year.
The biggest pick up in spending, however, was in building materials and garden equipment and supplies, which reflects the continuing gains in home sales, construction and renovations. Compared to the January to May period last year, spending in this segment has soared by 30%. Propelled by rock bottom interest rates, the whole residential real estate and construction sector continues to be a key factor supporting economic growth in the province.