Paul Martin’s Business Update – February 23rd, 2015

Feb 23, 2015, 04:55 PM

Perhaps the most confusing month to track retail sales numbers is December.

On the surface you’d think it’s the other way around…after all this is harvest time for retailers with the big rush at Christmas. But they’ve been innovative, resulting in some significant changes in spending patterns.

First is Black Friday. An American phenomenon where the day after Thanksgiving has long been billed as the start to the Christmas retail season with massive discounts to spur the spending fever has now spilled into Canada. That makes November a much bigger month, taking away some of December’s thunder.

And then there are gift cards. Increasingly popular these are not counted until they spent, rather than when they are purchased. Consequently, sales in January are disproportionately large and December is smaller.

So when we saw the December 2014 retail sales figures on Friday they were 3.5 per cent lower in Saskatchewan when compared to a robust November level. Yet they were higher than December a year earlier suggesting there is still some vitality in consumer confidence levels.