Canadian holiday retail sales seen up modestly

Mon Jan 4, 2010 4:06pm EST
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By Scott Anderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian retailers likely saw a modest rise in holiday sales this season after a brutal 2008, as deep discounts and splashy promotional campaigns helped them outperform most of their U.S. counterparts.

Final numbers will not be available until next month when the bulk of the Canadian retailers report quarterly results, but rough calculations and anecdotal evidence point to a rise of 1.5 percent to 2 percent for the key holiday period, retail analysts said on Monday.

In the 2008 holiday season, sales dropped 1.5 percent.

"That's steady," said John Archer, a senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group, a Toronto-based retail consulting firm. "I think they (the retailers) will be OK with that."

The Canadian gains are expected to top the 1 percent rise estimated for retailers in the United States.

Canadian retailers, unlike their U.S. counterparts, do not provide monthly sales statistics. U.S. government data is set to be released on January 14, while Statistics Canada will not release its December sales figures until Feb 19.

John Winter, of Toronto-based retail consulting firm John Winter Associates, offers a more bullish estimate of a rise of about 2 percent for Canadian sales during the period.

"Things are looking up. Consumers are feeling a little bit better and employment may have turned around," Winter said. "It was a better year compared with last year, from what I heard. But we have still got a long way to go."   Continued...