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Furniture, furnishings stores post Q1 gains PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael J. Knell   

OTTAWA (29 May 2012) - Furniture and home furnishings stores ended the first quarter of 2012 on a high note, posting better than forecast year-over-year sales gains of 4.4% and 4.8% respectively, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Canada. However, electronics and appliance stores saw sales ebb 1.5% during the first three months of the year.

The federal bean counter preliminarily tagged furniture stores sales for March 2012 at $754.4 million, a power-boosted gain of 14.5% from the revised tally of $659.0 million for February and up 4.4% from the $722.3 million rung-up in March 2011.

For the year-to-date, furniture store sales were up 3.1% to $2.14 billion. These merchants definitely outperformed expectations, as most analysts were forecasting that furniture store sales would actually fall, albeit by a modest 0.5%, during the January to March period - traditionally, their softest quarter.

Furniture stores in a number of provinces handily outpaced the national average: in Newfoundland & Labrador, the gain was 18.4% in Q1 while in New Brunswick sales were 10%. Sales by furniture stores in Manitoba were up 6.7%; in Saskatchewan by 18.8%; and, in Alberta by 16.7%.

Home furnishings stores - which sell everything from floor covering to wall and window treatments, lamps, lighting and decorative accessories - had preliminary sales of $448.7 million in March - another powerful gain (15.8%) over the prior month's revised total of $387.5 million. It's also 4.8% over the $387.5 million sold in March 2011.

First quarter sales for these merchants were $1.24 billion, up 4.8% over the comparable period of 2011. These merchants also beat expectations by 0.8%, which must be considered something of a major triumph in this economic environment.

Once again, several provinces whose economies are resource-based outperformed the national average. Home furnishings merchants in Newfoundland & Labrador saw their Q1 sales jump 24.6% while those in Manitoba gained 7.7%, Saskatchewan was up 11.6% and Alberta stores were up 13.4%.

Electronics and appliance stores sales were preliminarily set at $1.11 billion for March, advancing 16.5% from the revised tally of 955.3 million sold in February. However, it's a 3.1% decline from the $1.15 billion sold March last year.

Year-to-date sales were $3.12 billion at the end of March, down 1.5% over the comparable 2011 period. Canada's white and brown goods stores were the only big ticket group that failed to be expectations - analysts were forecasting a more modest sales decline of 0.4%.

However, electronics and appliance stores in Newfoundland & Labrador led the country with Q1 sales gains of 7.0%. These stores in Saskatchewan also outperformed the average with gains of 6.0%. Also showing gains were Manitoba at 1.1% and Alberta at 0.5%.

Overall retail store sales were up 5.1% in March at $37.9 billion. Excluding the automotive dealers and gas stations, sales were up 5.4% to $23.8 billion. Gas stations posted only a 2.4% gain for the month, the smallest that's been seen for some time. Meanwhile, auto dealers saw an uptick of 5.4% for the month.

For the first quarter, overall retail stores sales were up 5.6% but retail less auto was up only 3.6%. It should be noted that overall sales also exceeded their forecast gain of 4.2% as did retail less auto, which was forecast to gain only 2.4%. Both gas stations and auto dealers failed to attain their forecast growth rates.

However, Leslie Preston, an economist with TD Economics, noted the strong performance in March, which while setting the stage of the second quarter, "doesn't undo a consumer spending picture that is expected to be sub-par for the first half of 2012."

"Retail sales have been running at a roughly 4% year-on-year pace (on a seasonally adjusted basis) for about a year now, representing a downshift from the 6-7% pace that prevailed prior to the recession," Preston said in a note to clients. "The current more modest pace is in line with lacklustre household income growth and the continued expansion of the household debt burden, which leave less room in the budget for spending elsewhere."

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This October 30, the Furniture Bank will hold its annual Chair Affair Gala at the International Centre, home of the Canadian Furniture Show. Seen here are a selection of refurbished chairs created for the event by designers such as Jane Lockhart and Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman. The organisation aids low-income or recovering clients who are leaving homelessness, escaping an abusive domestic situation, are new to the country or are settling as refugees furnish what might otherwise be an empty home. Click here to read Ashley Newport’s report.



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