Retail sales in Canada rebounded as brick-and-mortar shops were allowed to reopen after months of COVID-19 shutdowns, though early data shows that momentum was short-lived.

The value of receipts rose 4.2 per cent in June, Statistics Canada reported Friday in Ottawa. However, that bounce-back was quickly reversed in July with a preliminary estimate showing a 1.7 per cent decline on the month. That brings total sales down about 5 per cent from their pandemic peak in March but still well above pre-pandemic levels. Among key economic indicators, retail sales were one of the fastest to fully recoup COVID-19 losses.

The report suggests that consumers were initially eager to buy goods when businesses reopened, though the weakness in July could reflect a shift in consumption to services. That kind of change has been expected by economists, who anticipate more spending on things like restaurant meals and haircuts now that they’re allowed.

“Canadians probably started replacing goods purchases with services. And even with the retreat in July, retail sales are still well above pre-COVID levels,” Royce Mendes, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said by email.

The retail gains in June were broad-based, with 8 of the 11 categories posting increases. Clothing and accessories stores led, rising 49.1 per cent as they reopened after months long lockdowns.  Furniture stores and sporting goods stores also posted double-digit increases.