Canada June retail sales up by record 23.7%, rising above pre-pandemic levels

FILE PHOTO: A woman shops in the Eaton Centre shopping mall, as the provincial phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions begins in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian retail sales rose by a record 23.7% in June, led by higher motor vehicle and parts sales, rising above February levels for the first time since the shutdowns tied to the coronavirus pandemic, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

In a preliminary estimate, Statscan said July retail sales could rise by a more subdued 0.7%.

The June gain was slightly below analyst expectations of an increase of 24.5% in June, though well ahead of retail sales in the United States, where gains have slowed amid spiraling new COVID-19 infections.

Sales were up in all subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada, led by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which rose 53.4%. Excluding autos and parts, retail sales rose 15.7% in June.

Sales surged at non-essential retailers, with clothing stores posting a 142.3% gain and furniture and home goods stores rising 70.9%, StatsCan said.

Overall, retail sales in June were 1.3% higher than February levels as the economy continued to reopen from coronavirus closures.

“With the major advance in June, retail sales are now above their pre-pandemic level, but the pace of recovery is likely to slow ahead,” said Royce Mendes, a senior economist with CIBC Capital Markets, in a note.

The Canadian dollar CAD= held near 1.3220 to the U.S. dollar, or 75.64 U.S. cents, after the data, down 0.3% on the day.

Reporting by Julie Gordon, Kelsey Johnson and Dale Smith in Ottawa; Editing by Alex Richardson and Chizu Nomiyama