Bricks and Mortar Retail Brawls with the Internet in Canada

Bauer Hockey is bringing one of its Own the Moment sports equipment stores – artificial ice rink included − to Canada, and specifically to Vaughan on the outskirts of Toronto.

2016-05-26-Canada-Retail-Sales-GraphicTherefore, on behalf of all bricks and mortar retail outlets, let me say, “Take that, internet! Go ahead, I dare you. See if you can replicate such a great shopping experience.”

Actually, the Internet may have a good rebuttal, but that’s to be revealed at the end of this article.

Sports Authority in the U.S., which has slipped into bankruptcy, has demonstrated the precarious nature of going toe-to-toe, or sneaker-to-sneaker, or blade-to-blade, with the shop-at-home convenience of surfing the web.

The strategy being employed by some ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers is to attract shoppers to their locations through the enticement of unique interactive shopping experiences – something to inspire potential buyers to climb out of their easy chairs and get out of the house for a while.

Own the Moment certainly grasps the concept. The 24,000-square-foot facility will include a fully functioning skating rink with appropriate sideboards.

Customers can browse for equipment, try on what they like and go for a test spin.

Bauer currently has two such stores in the U.S., one in the Boston suburb of Burlington and the other in Bloomington, close to Minneapolis.

The store’s in-house ice rink covers over 3,000 square feet, which makes it about one-fifth the size of the professional surfaces chewed up during an average game by NHL players.

As for Canada’s most recent retail sales data, which is reported by Statistics Canada with a one-month delay versus U.S. estimates, it has been holding up not too badly.

March’s total retail sales north of the border were a lackluster -1.0% month over month, but a decent enough +3.2% year over year. Furthermore, similar to the situation in the U.S., gasoline station sales acted as a significant drag on the overall outcome.

Once service stations are omitted, the Canadian year-over-year volume increases to +4.9% for all other retail sales, almost exactly on target with the +5.0% goal that signals a perky and willing-to-spend consumer.

(The latest cost of gasoline in Canada, as recorded in April’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) release from Statistics Canada, was -5.8% year over year. This goes a long way towards explaining why the year-over-year sales figure rung up at Canadian gas pumps in March was -11.1%.

Also in March, Canadian retail sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers were weak month to month (-2.9%), but a checkered-flag winning +10.3% year over year.

Canadian ‘building material and garden equipment’ retail sales were +7.6% year over year.

Provincially, Ontario (+5.2%) and B.C. (+4.9%) were two of the four big provinces, by population, with commendable year-over-year retail sales.

Alberta (-3.8%), which is suffering through a low-price crisis for its key natural resource, oil, faltered badly. Quebec’s performance (+2.8%) was bland.

As for the opening sentence of this Economy at a Glance, one must be careful about seeming too cocky. The Internet may indeed offer a viable alternative to trying out skates on an actual rink.

As my kids would ask me incredulously, “Have you never heard of virtual reality?”

Canadian Retail Sales – Three Months Smoothed

Canadian Retail Sales - Three Months Smoothed

*”Year over year” is each month versus the same month of the previous year.
Based on latest three-month averages of current dollar adjusted data (and placed in latest month).

Data source: Statistics Canada.
Chart: ConstructConnect.

Total Annual Retail Sales, U.S. and Canada


The latest data point for the U.S. is April 2016; for Canada, it’s March 2016.

Data sources: Statistics Canada and U.S. Census Bureau (Department of Commerce).
Chart: ConstructConnect.

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