Falling oil prices didn’t deter Alberta Christmas shoppers

The plunge in oil prices didn’t prevent Albertans from spending money during the recent Christmas shopping season.

A new report, released Monday by Moneris Solutions, Canada’s largest credit and debit card processor, said consumer spending in Alberta was up six per cent in December from December 2013. It was the third highest annual growth rate in the country behind Prince Edward Island at 10.1 per cent and Newfoundland Labrador at 7.7 per cent.

The report said spending in Alberta was also up by 3.2 per cent in October and by 5.1 per cent in November. For the fourth quarter, spending rose by 4.1 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2013.

Sales at both Chinook Centre and Market Mall were up eight per cent in December from previous-year numbers. Full-year sales were up three per cent at Chinook and two per cent at Market Mall.

“The increase in consumer spending over the Christmas period is a strong indicator there is still plenty of gas in the tank of the Alberta economy. Despite the uncertain times, consumer confidence in Alberta continues to hold strong. Growing economic pressures will continue to reshape the retail landscape in the province of Alberta and beyond,” said Jay de Nance, director of tenant services for Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc. in Calgary.

Moneris said Alberta experienced an annual increase of 8.16 per cent in restaurant spending in the fourth quarter compared with the national average of 6.24 per cent. Specialty and apparel spending were up 1.94 per cent and 1.43 per cent, respectively, in the province compared with 1.96 per cent and 2.87 per cent nationally.

Rob Cameron, chief marketing officer for Moneris, said there remains a good level of consumer confidence in the Canadian market. The fall in oil prices has led to lower gasoline prices, which is putting more money in people’s pockets these days — and they’re spending it.

“There’s a lot of people that would like to jump on the bandwagon that Alberta is going to fold up their tents and give up, but oil goes up and down all the time,” Cameron said. “I think the people of Alberta are going to wait and see and are still relatively confident in their economy at the present time as demonstrated by how they spent through the holiday season.”

Nationally, Canadian consumer spending rose by 3.8 per cent on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter of 2014 following three consecutive quarters of stagnant growth, according to Moneris’ quarterly spending report.

It said spending across Canada rose by 3.5 per cent in October, 6.1 per cent in November and four per cent in December.

The report found that Black Friday beat out Boxing Day this year with total sales that were five per cent higher. But while Black Friday sales were up 5.1 per cent, the strongest growth was just before and after Christmas — sales from Dec. 19-24 were up seven per cent, while sales from Dec. 26-30 were up 7.9 per cent.

Dec. 23 was the year’s busiest shopping day.

mtoneguzzi@calgaryherald.com

Twitter.com/MTone123

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