Statistics Canada says retail sales edged up 0.1% in April to $51.5 billion, boosted by food and drink sales and higher prices for gasoline.
Economists had expected an increase of 0.2%, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.
Sales were up in seven of 11 subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada.
Sales at gasoline stations were up 1.2%, although sales fell 0.7% in volume terms, reflecting higher prices at the pump.
Food and beverage stores saw sales climb 0.4%, boosted by higher sales at beer, wine and liquor stores and specialty food stores.
Motor vehicle and parts dealers saw sales edge up 0.1% on the strength of a 1.2% increase in sales at new car dealers that offset lower sales at other store types within this subsector.
Retail sales in volume terms fell 0.2%.
In a report, National Bank of Canada economist Kyle Dahms noted that the tepid April sales figures followed a strong month in March, which saw sales increase by 1.3% (revised upward from an initial estimate of 1.1%).
“The strong handoff from March will provide some lift in the second quarter, and stronger prints for May and June are likely given the strong labour market in 2019,” Dahms wrote.
Alberta saw sales increase for the third straight month in April, which suggests “the economy is improving from the slump caused by last year’s fall in oil prices,” Dahms added.
In another report, Derek Holt, vice-president and head of capital markets economics with Scotiabank, suggested wetter-than-normal weather across much of Canada in April put a damper on sales.
Only Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta saw increases in the dollar value of sales, while Prince Edward Island remained flat and the rest of the country bore the brunt of weaker sales figures—and, in many cases, inclement weather.
“Sales fell in the other six provinces with a particular slant toward weakness in the wettest provinces,” Holt wrote. “Quebec and the four Atlantic provinces account for about 30% of total Canadian retail sales and [they] were all weak and wet during April.”