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Furniture store sales climb in October, StatsCan reports

 6 January 2020     Michael J. Knell 

OTTAWA – Thanks primarily to a strong housing market, Canadian furniture stores saw improved sales for the month of October 2019, according to the latest unadjusted figures from Statistics Canada. Meanwhile, home furnishings store sales sagged for the month while electronics and appliance stores saw their receipts drop like a stone, performances that were more in-line with the rest of the retail sector.

For the month of October, furniture store sales were pegged at an actual and preliminary $983.4 million, up 5.5% from the $932.1 million rung-up for October 2018.

For the year-to-date, furniture store sales came in at $9.85 billion, up 3.9% from $9.48 billion for the comparable period of 2018.

In his analysis, the Toronto-based retail consultant Ed Strapagiel noted furniture store sales for the trailing 12 months ending October 2019 were about $11.9 billion, an uptick of about 3%.

Home furnishings stores – which sell everything from furniture to decorative accessories, lamps and lighting, wall décor and floor covering – didn’t perform as strongly. Their preliminary sales were estimated at $596.3 million for October, a slide of about 2.0% from $608.7 million for October 2018.

But, thanks to gains made in prior months, year-to-date sales were pegged at $5.71 billion, a marginal 1.0% gain from the comparable 2018 period’s $5.66 billion.

Strapagiel pegged trailing 12 sales for home furnishings merchants at $7.1 billion, down slightly from the comparable period.

Electronics and appliance stores took a deep dive in October, as preliminary and actual sales were pegged at $1.10 billion for the month – a drop of 17.5% from the $1.33 billion rung-up in October 2018.

Sales for the year-to-date were $10.6 billion, down 10.7% from the $11.9 billion for the comparable period. For trailing 12, sales were estimated at $14.4 billion.

Most analysts expressed concern about the overall state of retail in Canada and fear it will drag down the overall economy during the closing weeks of 2019.

Statistics Canada reported total location-based retail had sales of $52.8 billion for the month of October, a scant advance of 0.2% over October 2018. Dragging down retail were sagging gas station sales – which fell 4.8%. In addition to electronics and appliance stores, sales also fell for automotive retailers, health and personal care stores, shoe stores, convenience stores and book and music stores.

For the year-to-date, all location-based retail stores had sales of $507.7 billion, about 1.5% higher than for the comparable 2018.

Omar Abdelrahman of TD Economics noted that apart from housing markets, Canadian economic news has tended to be unambiguously negative in recent weeks. “As a result, we are expecting a continued tepid performance for the Canadian economy in the fourth quarter,” he said in his research note.

“Retail sales are on track to record the weakest performance since the financial crisis,” he continued, adding, “This is notably disappointing considering the surge in population growth that Canada has been seeing of late. The sector continues to face the cross currents of high household debt servicing costs against the tailwinds of improving housing markets and firming wage growth. We expect these tailwinds to provide only a modest uptick in the months ahead.”

Robert Kavcic of BMO Capital Markets pointed out that “Canadian retail numbers can sometimes get wonky heading into the holiday and turn of the year. But, still, the bigger picture is that the consumer simply looks tired.”

Almost all analysts said they were waiting for StatsCan to report on retail sales for November and December before any final judgement.

Stearns and Foster
This HGO article was written by:
Michael J. Knell
Michael J. Knell

Michael is the publisher and editor of Home Goods Online. A seasoned business journalist, he has researched and written about the furniture, mattress and major appliance industries in both Canada and the United States for the past three decades.

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