Furniture store sales climb 69.2% in March: Statistics Canada
OTTAWA – Fueled by consumer enthusiasm felt before the onset of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which struck most of the country shortly thereafter, sales by brick-and-mortar furniture stores jumped a rocket-fueled 69.2% in March over the same month a year ago, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Canada. Similar upticks were recorded by both home furnishings and electronics/appliance stores.
Indeed, all three outperformed almost every other category of what the federal bean counter refers to as “location-based retail” for the third month of the year except for automotive dealers and clothing stores. These data do not include sales by the pure-play e-commerce vendors such as Article, Endy or Rove Concepts. Statistics Canada does not as yet track the sales of these merchants.
The agency set sales by brick-and-mortar furniture stores at an actual and preliminary $1.17 billion for March 2021, a 34.8% advance from the $870.1 million sold in April and huge 69.2% leap from the $693.2 million in March 2020.
However, many commentators are advocating that because March 2020 marked the beginning of the pandemic-related shutdowns imposed by provincial governments, it might be more insightful to use March 2019 as a base for comparison. For furniture stores, the uptick was 25.3% - considerably higher than the ten-year average.
Furthermore, March topped off a robust first quarter for brick-and-mortar furniture stores as sales amounted to $2.82 billion – up 17.0% over the $2.41 billion rung-up for the same period of 2020.
It should be noted the publicly held and Toronto-based Leon’s Furniture Limited recently reported a first quarter gain in its system-wide sales of 16.6% which allowed it to maintain its overall market share of 24.7%. This country’s other publicly held furniture store, Sleep Country Canada Holdings, also kept with the trend with first quarter sales advancing 20.7% for the period.
According to Ed Strapagiel, the Toronto-based retail consultant, furniture store sales for the trailing 12 months also ending March 2021 were $12.0 billion, a year-over-year gain of 2.3%.
Meanwhile, home furnishings stores – which sell everything from accent and occasional furniture to decorative accessories, lamps, lighting and floor covering – had preliminary and actual sales of $673.0 million in March 2021. This was a 41.0% increase from the $477.3 million recorded in February and 64.6% higher than the $489.0 million recorded for March 2020.
They were also 14.9% higher than sales rung-up for March 2019.
For the year-to-date, home furnishings stores rung-up sales of $1.66 billion, advancing 21.7% from $1.36 billion for the corresponding period last year.
In a sign the pandemic is still having an impact on the industry, home furnishings store sales for the trailing 12 months ending in March were actually down 1.8% at $6.8 billion.
Electronics/appliance stores also put on a strong performance for both the month of March and the first quarter of 2021. Statistics Canada set their sales at a preliminary and actual $1.26 billion for March, a 25% gain over the $1.0 billion rung-up in February and 36.6% higher than the $921.7 million in March 2020.
They were also 27.0% higher than total sold in March 2019.
For the first three months of 2021, electronics/appliance stores had total sales of $3.35 billion, a 22.6% gain from the $2.73 billion for the same period last year.
Sales for the trailing 12 months ending in March were $15.4 billion, a gain of 11.5% over the previous and comparable period.
While the majority of retailers are delighted with the sale gains to date, many observers seem to believe consumers will eventually turn their attention away from buying at this pace. The recent renewal of virus containment measures across the country to combat their third wave of the virus will be felt.
Ksenia Bushmeneva of TD Economics said preliminary data suggests consumer spending will be weak in April and May. “The picture may brighten in June,” she suggested in a research note, “with caseloads declining and vaccinations rates ramping up significantly across the country, many provinces are slated to start easing restrictions.
“In-store retail sales will get a lift in the summer months from easing restrictions and pent-up demand,” she continued, noting this may also prompt a shift from the buying of goods to the buying of services. A good example would be restaurants, who should soon be able to offer indoor dining as a long-awaited alternative to home cooking.
Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Capital Markets offered a slightly different view. “Canadian consumers were ready, willing and able to shop before the third wave. However, as lockdowns restarted and restrictions tightened in April, sales fell sharply, as fully expected,” he said. “May isn’t likely to be any friendlier, but expect a better June and beyond, as rising vaccination rates allow the economy to slowly return to normal.”
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