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Retail sales fall for the second month in a row: StatCan

Sales in Canada were down in May, but early estimates indicate they'll bounce back in June

Retail sales in Canada stumbled for the second month in a row after two straight months of gains, a sign of the rocky road ahead as Canada staggers out of the pandemic's economic recession.

The 2.1% decline in retail sales in May came as many retailers continued to face closures amid the third wave of COVID-19, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

In a nod to the erratic economic situation, the federal agency provided an advance estimate for June retail sales, which it expects will climb 4.4% as stores began to reopen.

"The decline in May sales numbers is not surprising given the ongoing shutdowns that were in place at the time, particularly in Ontario," Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen said in an email.

"The real test will be next month's numbers, which will show the effects of reopening."

Sales decreased in eight of 11 subsectors in May, representing more than 65% of the country's retail trade.

The biggest drop was recorded at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, which fell 11.3%.

Sales in the clothing and clothing accessories category declined 11.2%, with nearly a quarter shuttered for an average of six days during the month. Within the subsector, clothing stores saw an 11.6% decrease in sales, falling to their lowest level since May 2020.

Meanwhile, the motor vehicle and parts industry experienced a 2.4% decrease in May.

Receipts rose 0.8% at food and beverage stores and 0.9% at businesses selling gasoline.

Statistics Canada said 5.6% of retailers used to calculate its monthly numbers were closed at some point in May, compared with about 5% the month before.

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