Some call it a sport. Others consider it a form of therapy. But whatever Albertans call it, even the most enthusiastic shopper eventually has to take a break—and that’s exactly what happened as 2011 got started.
Total retail sales in Alberta slipped to $5.165 billion in January, down 0.5% from December. Compared to January of 2010, shoppers still racked up sales that were 5.5% higher. The figures are adjusted for seasonal variation.
Total Canadian retail sales also slid in January, but by a smaller percentage amount (-0.3%). That was in sharp contrast to a consensus of economists’ expectations, which had called for a gain of 1.0%. A drop in new auto sales nationally was the primary reason. The lower retail figure in Alberta breaks a 6-month upward trend in sales that marked the second half of 2010. Even with the dip in January, though, the value of retail sales remains much higher (+11%) than the low point hit during the pit of the recession in March 2009 (see graph).
It’s improbable that January’s drop in retail sales signals anything more than a pause. With Alberta’s economy strengthening and employment rising, retailers should see sales continue to improve in 2011, although perhaps at a more moderate pace than the rise enjoyed last year.