Retail sales down in September, but an improvement over 2016

THE CANADIAN PRESS

After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms fell 0.6 per cent.

The agency said Manitoba was one of five provinces to see a month-over-month drop in sales in September.

On a year-over-year basis, nominal retail sales rose 6.2%. On a volume basis, sales fell 1.2% in the third quarter.

Thursday's release is the last major piece of output data ahead of third quarter gross domestic product numbers next week, and is the second release this week that showed unexpected weakness in activity. Economic growth is expected to sharply slow in the July-to-September period after expanding 3.7% and 4.5% in the first and second quarters, respectively.

"The unseasonably mild weather in the Fall this year delayed the timing of purchases of winter apparel", Nick Exarhos, a senior economist with CIBC Economics, wrote in a report. Now, with September's retail figures in the books, economists anticipate growth closer to 1.5% with some possibility of downside risk, according to Benjamin Reitzes, economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Higher gasoline prices helped bump retail sales higher in September, but economists said it appears consumer spending has cooled after a hot start to the year.

Headline sales are expected to bounce back with a 1.0% rise following the 0.3% decline in August.

Sales at stores associated with home purchases was one source of strength, with building material and garden equipment sales up 2.6 per cent, while furniture purchases increased by 2.3 per cent.

Weighing on the results was a 0.5% drop in motor vehicles and parts, to C$13.09bn. If sales at gas stations were to be stripped out, sales fell 0.2%.

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