Initial reports say Christmas sales were strong in British Columbia, but not as strong as last year, as the industry prepares for a “softening” of the retail environment. (Black Press File).

Retailers in B.C. preparing for slower growth, higher costs in 2019

British Columbia, once a region of strength, has gone soft for retailers

Christmas sales were strong, but not as strong as last year, says a leading retail analyst, who predicts a “softening” for the retail industry in 2019.

Greg Wilson, director of government relations in British Columbia for the Retail Council of Canada, made these observations as the industry prepares for a slow-down after five strong years of growth.

More information will become available in two months when Statistics Canada releases retail figures for December. The most available retail figures for October show sluggish retail sales.

RELATED: Canadians spent $1.7 billion dollars online in December 2016

Whereas British Columbia was once a strong market for retailers, it is among the weakest in the country, he said, pointing to the Retail Council of Canada’s Holiday Retail Conditions Report that the organization compiles through interviews with members.

“The slow-down in British Columbia has become more widespread, with the majority of members saying it is now one of their weaker regions,” it reads. “The softness occurs in all parts of the province.”

There are several reasons, according to Wilson. First, the slow down in real estate has impacted retail. Second, retailers, especially in parts of Greater Vancouver are struggling to retain staff, because of low wages relative to local housing costs, a phenomenon also apparent in other parts of the province such as Whistler.

Retailers in the Greater Victoria have also complained about the absence of staff, citing housing and transportation costs as factors.

READ ALSO: First stores open in Victoria’s expanded Mayfair shopping centre

Other issues also loom, said Wilson, including the Employers Health Tax (EHT) effective Jan. 1 and a higher minimum wage effective June 1.

While the retail council welcomes some of these measures, they are opposed to others, said Wilson.

He is concerned about the EHT, which replaces the Medical Service Premiums (MSP), with the proviso that the provincial government collects both in 2019.

This double-dipping punishes what Wilson called “progressive” retailers, who already pay their employees’ MSP.

Issues beyond the borders of the British Columbia may also keep up retailers at night.

“Like their customers, retailers are very aware it is an uncertain world,” reads the council’s internal assessment. “The items in the big picture – trade disagreements, a slower economy, geopolitical tension, the exchange rate, technological change, cost and competitive pressures – intrude when retail execs are trying to get to sleep.”

The council’s internal reporting says most retailers are planning for “very modest increases in sales, characterized by flat store sales and strong online increases” with overall sales growth in the two per cent range.

The retail environment is “softening,” said Wilson. But he notes this development is relative, he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Wildfire northeast of Clinton put out by BC Wildfire Service

Fire at 51 Mile Creek suspected to be lightning-caused

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Fishing Highway a ‘land of hidden waters’

Irene Meili has spent the past three years trying to lure more guests to the Fishing Highway.

Bursaries and bake sales at South Green Lake

Drive-thru homemade pie sale a huge success in a trying time

Amidst heatwaves, officials remind public to take water safety seriously

RCMP, Search and Rescue and BC branch of Lifesaving Society offer recommendations to those water-bound

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Most Read