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Spending up, but consumers cautious

Spending up, but consumers cautious

Posted on: 6/22/2018 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

​​In another sign that Alberta’s economy continues to gradually improve, shoppers in the province pried open their purses and wallets a little wider in April. Retail sales in the province rose to $6.79 billion that month (adjusted for seasonality). That’s a slight improvement over March and 2.2 per cent higher than a year ago.

Over the last complete twelve months, total retail spending in Alberta is up 5.7 per cent compared to the previous 12-month period.

The graph below shows the profile of consumer spending in Alberta before, during and after the recession. After hitting a low-point in July of 2016, retail sales have risen by more than 10 per cent.

While consumer spending rose a healthy 2.2 per cent annually, Statistics Canada also reported this morning that consumer price inflation in Alberta rose by 2.3 per cent in April and 2.6 per cent in May. This suggests that while shoppers are spending more money, they may actually be bringing home fewer items in their carts. (The consumer price index is not entirely comparable to retail sales as the index includes a number of items not captured by retail activity, such as home heating costs, insurance, etc.)

Overall, retail sales in Alberta have recaptured the losses from the recession and have stabilized. Consumers remain cautious, though. And even though retailers are seeing sales trend gradually higher, many may still be feeling strained as revenues struggle to keep up with expenses.

Retail Sales, graph

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