In-store spending is surging past pre-pandemic levels

Mastercard's latest report also finds that jewelery, restaurants and electronics are (finally) on a strong path to recovery.
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The latest Mastercard report on national retail sales suggests in-store sales are continuing to recover, and look strong even when compared to figures from before the pandemic. 

The payment provider’s latest SpendingPulse report finds that Canadian retail sales (minus auto) increased 6.2% year-over-year in February, continuing an upward trajectory. But they were also up by 15.2% compared to February 2020 – the month before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Canada – and were up +22.7% compared to 2019.

Online sales are up 101.4% since widespread lockdowns commenced, but are beginning to normalize as in-store shopping becomes more accessible: they are down 19.8% when compared to the elevated growth ecomm experienced in February 2021.

Mastercard’s SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales across all payment types in select markets globally, Canada included. Its findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for other payment forms, such as cash and check.

The retail growth, according to the report, is being led by jewelry and leather goods and restaurants, up 24.4% and 21% compared with February 2021. Restaurants, however, are still 16.7% below 2019 levels when lockdowns hit the sector hard.

Apparel sales continue to see strong growth, up 18.3% as consumers prepare to return to physical offices, updating their wardrobes after nearly two years of working remotely.

“Despite inflation, consumers are putting their record savings to work and expressing themselves through fashion again – much to the benefit of the apparel, jewelry and leather goods verticals,” says Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Incorporated.

That said, apparel sales growth remains 15.7% lower than 2019 levels.

Furniture and furnishings sales were positive again in February as Canadians continue to spend on their domiciles, up 6.7%, with home improvement sales up 9%. Home improvement has  experienced 40% sales growth compared with 2019.

Electronic sales were back up 19.3% year-over-year for February, reversing January year-over-year declines of about 25%.