Article by CBC News
Early success in fending off the COVID-19 virus and some quick adjusting by local entrepreneurs helped New Brunswick dodge some of the economic pain other provinces suffered in their retail sectors during the first full month of state-of-emergency store closures.
On Friday, Statistics Canada reported retail sales in New Brunswick in April totalled $807.2 million. It was a hefty $279.6 million drop from last April but noticeably better than some neighbouring jurisdictions, as local businesses did what they could to keep customers supplied.
In Nova Scotia April sales dropped $422.6 million year over year and nationally transactions fell 32.8 per cent, a full seven points worse than New Brunswick.
“The largest declines occurred in Ontario and Quebec, the provinces reporting the most COVID-19 cases in April,” reported Statistics Canada in a release.
In New Brunswick it appeared cooking, gardening and a little recreational drug use helped residents and the economy through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a shift in spending habits revealed by the new sales data.
Transactions at grocery stores and garden supply centres in the province were up substantially and Cannabis NB reported its best results since opening back in 2018.
On April 16, Premier Blaine Higgs announced a decision to let garden centres in the province open, in part because of success containing the virus, and the move paid off immediately, according to Brunswick Nurseries owner Duncan Kelbaugh of Quispamsis.
“We normally open around April 15. Right off the bat our sales were up,” said Kelbaugh, who found people flooding his business looking for seeds, tools and advice.
“There’s a huge interest in growing vegetables at home. There are all kinds of beginner vegetable gardeners that are starting just a kitchen-sized little plot.
“People have more time. They are home and can’t travel and so want to improve their home. April [business] was better than the April before and May was more than double the May of 2019.”
Sales figures show New Brunswick residents spent $69.2 million at home improvement and gardening supply centres in April, a 29 per cent increase from a year earlier.