By Randy Harris, President, Trendex
Mixed news: The growth of Canadian retail apparel sales slowed in June 2021, compared to those in each of the three previous months, however June marked the first month in 2021 that retail apparel sales for the month were greater than the same month both in 2020 (+12.4%) and 2019 (+12.1%). June’s increase also marked the only month in 2021 that the month’s sales did not decrease (y/y) compared to 2019 by double digits.
In spite of June’s good news for apparel retailers it has to be noted that while apparel sales increased 13.6% (y/y) during the first half of 2021 they were still down 26.4% when compared to the first half of 2019.
Three Canadian retailers reported strikingly different sales patterns during the six month period ending July 31, 2021.
lululemon Canada’s results were outstanding, as its Q2 Canadian only sales increased 46.9%, while its sales (y/y) in the six month ending August 1 increased 55.4%. Even more impressive was the retailers sales increase of 42.7% when compared to the first half of 2019. Driving the retailer’s sales increase in Q2 2021 was the fact that almost all of its 62 Canadian owned stores were open vs. most of them being temporarily closed a year earlier. Additionally, during Q2 2021 men’s sales growth drove sales while e-commerce sale growth slowed.
Roots, like the majority of Canadian apparel retailers continued to struggle during Q2 2021 as a result of partial store closures. Nevertheless the retailers DTC sales increased 6.6% in the quarter ending August 1, 2021. More importantly the retailers DTC gross margin increased to 63.4% up 120 basis points from a year earlier. The retailer closed the quarter with 111 corporate stores. To its credit, Roots is emphasizing profitability over sales (by reducing promotional activity) and e-commerce over brick and mortar sales.
Zumiez Canada’s Q2 2021 results were disappointing as sales decreased 17.6% in the quarter. During the first half of 2021 the retailer, who is targeted to 15-24 year-olds, reported a 4.4% sales increase.
Canada’s apparel exports increased by 30.1% in July 2021 after increasing 119.0% in June. During the first seven months of 2021 total apparel exports increased 39.4%, while apparel exports to the U.S. increased 32.1%, and exports to China increased 117%.
Canada’s apparel imports decreased by 18.6% in July 2021 and were up 4.9% during Jan/July. During the first seven months of 2021 imports from China (-10.7%) decreased while those from Vietnam (+18.1%), Bangladesh (+14.1%), and Cambodia (+13.2%) increased.
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