After a brief look through Creative Computing, issues January 1981 - June 1982, I conclude that they had a semi-regular section on the TRS-80 CoCo (perhaps shared with the Z80 based TRS-80), had a few features on the TI-99/4(A) but only like twice mentioned the VIC-20 over that time period. That is in contrast to COMPUTE! which treated these three brands the exact opposite way.
David H. Ahl writes something interesting in the September 1981 issue of Creative Computing:
The VIC-20 was formally announced on January 8, 1981 at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show. It was promised that it would be on sale in quantity by March 1981. However, we have learned from previous experience to take such announcements with a grain of salt. It was not until the National Computer Conference in May that we were able to pick up an "advance" VIC-20. However, by this time you read this, production units should be reaching retail stores.
Which retail stores we are not quite sure. Commodore has been making a good deal of news lately in the trade press by first rescindling and then reinstating distributorship agreements with various personal computer distributors in the U.S. Some months ago, Commodore announced its intention to go 100% to company-owned stores, however, they seem to have backed off this position and so you may well find the VIC available in both Commodore stores as well as other retail computer outlets.
You also have a contemporary comparison chart between the VIC-20, ZX-81, Atari 400 and TRS-80 CoCo (no TI-99/4A in this one). Something else that is interesting with Ahl's article is the suggestion that no secondary storage devices were available at the time of writing the article - no C2N tape recorders, no 1540 floppy drives (which I know didn't arrive until later). On the other hand, I saw advertisements in COMPUTE! from June/July 1981 advertising both the VIC-20 and C2N, so something is not entirely correct here. Now the VIC and PET share the same type of cassette recorder (in particular for the later PETs that didn't have one built-in) so it would seem to me that Commodore sold cassette recorders intended for the PET as peripherals for the VIC-20. Much later on, the new, flatter design arrived but it might not have been until the C64 generation.
According to other sources, I read that the VIC-20 went for sale in Europe by September - October 1981, though in small quantities and were not readily available until early 1982. Now if it barely was available in the US even by the summer of 1981, the difference in availability US/Europe shrinks from 6 to 3 months. Even more interesting that COMPUTE! printed a 16 page special on the VIC-20 in July if it barely had been made available to buyers.