Canada: Alberta retailers may enjoy merrier Christmas after flat 2016


    Owners of shops and other outlets in the province are likely to see total 2016 sales decrease by 0.9 per cent from last year, the only Canadian jurisdiction facing a retail revenue reduction, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

    It would be the second decline in a row after a 4.6-per-cent drop in 2015 following three years of strong growth.


    But there’s a glimmer of hope for the holidays as Colliers foresees a three-per-cent increase in Alberta’s December sales, rising to $6.99 billion from $6.79 billion last year.

    “We’re looking at (strong) Christmas sales across the country,” said James Smerdon, a Vancouver-based vice-president and director of retail consulting for Colliers.

    “As long as there’s no shock to the system at the end of the year, say in November, I wouldn’t think there’s any reason why we won’t see a slight (Alberta) increase.”

    Nationally, Smerdon predicts December sales will go up 4.8 per cent to $50.4 billion, led by British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

    He expects sales in Alberta to stay essentially flat in 2017, likely not rising or falling by more than one per cent as the energy industry and the rest of the provincial economy remains in the doldrums.

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    “I don’t think there’s any indication the province will see a big change in oil fundamentals. You will have to wait another two to three years for retail growth to return to the province.”

    Smerdon’s estimate for holiday sales is more optimistic than a similar report from consulting firm EY, which predicts a slight drop in Alberta and Saskatchewan compared to a 3.5-per-cent Canada-wide increase.

    It credits the national results to lower gas prices, less cross-border shopping, the federal middle-class tax cut and stronger consumer confidence, although some prices might be higher because of the Canadian dollar’s depreciation.

    Lanny McInnes, Prairies director for the Retail Council of Canada, said there’s reason for Christmas cheer nationally, but Alberta might buck that trend.

    “(Provincial) retailers are hoping for the best. Sales have been weak over the last year. I think retailers have tempered their expectations in terms of holiday sales, but are certainly optimistic,” he said.

    “When we hit Black Friday and American Thanksgiving … which is now an official entrenched part of the sales season, I think retailers are hoping they will see a bit of an increase.”

    Source: Edmonton Journal


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