Canadian Retailers Not Doing Well?

The Ottawa Citizen has an article entitled “Canadian Retailers Take a Hit“, which talks about bad retail sales numbers for this past quarter.  The gist of the article is that the economy is slumping and we need to fix it with an interest rate change.

“Overall, the report suggests some noticeable weakness in consumer spending”

My take?  The weakness in consumer spending is consumers waiting for prices in Canada to adjust to reflect what’s happened with the dollar.  It’s hard to shop in Canada now without the feeling that you’re getting hosed on the retail price of goods.

Twice now we’ve gone into a bookstore to find a book, and left without buying it because of the price difference.  It hurts paying 40% more than the US price when our dollar is worth more than theirs.

Chapters has a sign up in the store which basically says that they buy books from Canadian distributors at Canadian prices, so they can’t afford to sell them at the American price printed on the book.  They also say that since the Canadian price is printed on the book, the price is only updated on the infrequent occasion a new printing of the book becomes available.

That explains why they’re selling at the price they’re selling at, but it doesn’t do anything to encourage me to be willing to pay that.  They’re not saying “the book is worth $24.95 Canadian even though the jacket clearly shows the US price is $17.95”, they’re saying “We have to sell the book for $24.95”. 

Meanwhile some retailers (such as Wal-Mart) are selling books and magazines at the US price.

Is Wal-Mart losing money on these items?  Perhaps.  But the goodwill they get from matching the US price has got to be worth it, and besides, if anyone can hardball the publishers into selling the books for less, it’d be Wal-Mart.

Are there any Canadian booksellers that sell online, that will price-match the US price?

Back to the retail slump.  I don’t think it’s that consumers don’t have money or don’t want to spend it.  There is going to be a retail boom in US towns near the border.  I hope Canadian businesses can realize what’s going on and pressure their suppliers (and on up the chain) in time to bring some of this boom back home.