Recession or not, Albertans love their shopping. Retail sales in November of last year rang in at $6.15 billion—a drop of only two per cent from a year ago (adjusted for seasonality). In terms of dollars spent per person, Alberta still tops the country at $1,441. That compares with the Canadian average of $1,241.
Still, the gap between Alberta and the rest of the country has narrowed. The graph below shows dollars of retail activity per capita in Alberta and Canada over the last two decades. Back in the ‘90s, the gap was much smaller. But with a booming economy in the early part of the 2000s, the gap started to grow. By 2006, Albertans were spending 42 per cent more per person than their fellow Canadians.
With the recession of 2009, spending dropped steeply in both Alberta and Canada. As Alberta’s economy started on another expansionary cycle between 2010 and 2014, the gap started to grow once again. When the recession hit two years ago, spending per person in Alberta started to ease up—not as dramatically as it did in 2009, but falling from a peak of over $1,600 in late 2014 to where it sits currently at around $1,440. The gap between per capita spending is now at 16 per cent.
The main reasons for why Albertans have always spent more? Wages and demographics. Even during the recessions, Alberta employees enjoy higher than average weekly wages. As well, Alberta’s young demographic is significant. Young people and households raising children naturally will spend more.