aL­berTa baCk iN biz

There are signs con­sumer con­fi­dence is pick­ing up

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Front Page - Kevin Maimann

Al­ber­tans are fir­ing up their trucks again.

The prov­ince is pro­jected to see re­tail sales spike 8.2 per cent in 2017, after neg­a­tive growth the pre­vi­ous two years — and most of that in­crease is due to more peo­ple driv­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Col­liers 2017 Fall Re­tail Re­port re­leased Tues­day.

“Al­berta is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent when we’re look­ing at spend­ing ver­sus the rest of the coun­try, be­cause a good por­tion of their re­tail spend­ing is based on au­to­mo­tive uses and gaso­line due to the higher use of ve­hi­cles, ba­si­cally,” said Col­liers plan­ning con­sul­tant Rus­sell White­head.

“When the oil slump oc­curred, there was a dra­matic im­pact specif­i­cally on this type of spend­ing.”

In 2016, Al­berta was the only prov­ince in Canada with neg­a­tive over­all re­tail growth at -1.2 per cent.

White­head said Al­ber­tans have been car­pool­ing and tak­ing pub­lic tran­sit more of­ten in the slump­ing econ­omy, but con­sumer con­fi­dence is ris­ing as the un­em­ploy­ment rate dropped from 8.6 per cent last year to 7.8 per cent this year.

Au­to­mo­tive and gas spend­ing is ex­pected to rise 15.3 per cent in 2017, mak­ing up most of the over­all re­tail spike.

Peo­ple had also been hold­ing off on buy­ing new ve­hi­cles, White­head said, but car sales are back on the up­swing.

Dwight Kurtz, gen­eral man­ager at Koch Ford Lin­coln in Ed­mon­ton, said he’s seen a “huge spike” in fleet sales to oil, con­struc­tion and ser­vice com­pa­nies this year, as well as a mod­er­ate in­crease in show­room sales.

Fac­tor­ing out auto and gas, sales in other ar­eas are show­ing an in­crease of about two per cent across Al­berta.

White­head said re­tail sales over­all have bounced back to “near-nor­mal” lev­els.

He said health-food stores, small fit­ness stu­dios and low­priced cloth­ing out­lets are also thriv­ing.

“The econ­omy is still bounc­ing back in Al­berta, so peo­ple are go­ing to want to spend more of their hard earned money on life­style goods that are more af­ford­able, rather than go­ing out and spend­ing more on lux­ury items,” White­head said.

Al­ber­tans are pro­jected to spend $81 bil­lion by the end of this year, com­pared to $75 bil­lion in 2016.

Across Canada, re­tail sales are pre­dicted to grow by seven per cent to reach ap­prox­i­mately $590 bil­lion by the end of 2017.

CON­TRIB­UTED FORD

Ex­perts say Al­ber­tans have been car­pool­ing and tak­ing pub­lic tran­sit more of­ten in the slump­ing econ­omy, but con­sumer con idence is ris­ing.

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