Canadian retail takes February to gear up for a dramatic March. All Stores grew an average 2.2%, with All Stores Less Automotive growing 5.2% and All Stores Less Automotive, Food, and Pharmacies at 5.9% over February 2020.
Building Material and Garden Equipment continue to surge ahead at 25.8%, still riding out the work-from-home wave. As the weather gets warmer, the category could see even more growth as customers who held off last year will take on home projects this year. The category also closely follows the housing market, which has also seen a surge.
Electronics and Appliance Stores also reported a strong growth of 19.5% this month. The category has been one of the fastest to adopt new operations, as its product line functions well alongside curbside pickup or home delivery. The jump in February over last may also be attributed to changing home needs such as smart devices and energy efficient appliances.
Clothing and Accessories Stores remain down at -32.9%, but we will likely see some unusual numbers in March and April due to the huge drop in the category during those months. Some of this negative growth can be attributed to store closures, but some growth may have been lost to General Merchandise Stores (10.3% year-over-year), in part due to the demand for leisurewear over workwear, and in part due to one-store shopping; customers would rather visit a single store for all their needs.
Regionally, it can be seen that the areas with stricter regulations are continuing to struggle, with Toronto dropping -12.7%, and Montreal -15.0%. March may see some improvement in these regions, but April in Toronto especially will see a major decline.
Overall, February was fairly positive. However, the real headlines will be in March and April as we mark the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Will Canadian retail finally recover?