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Annual retail trade, 2012

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Released: 2014-03-26

The operating revenue of store and non-store retailers increased 2.9% to $502.6 billion in 2012, the lowest growth rate since the contraction of revenue in 2009. In dollar terms, motor vehicle and parts dealers, gasoline stations and food and beverage store retailers accounted for over 60% of the total operating revenue growth.

Motor vehicle and parts dealers recorded the largest increase in total operating revenue, up 4.3% to $109.1 billion in 2012. New car dealers represented almost three-quarters of the gain in 2012.

The operating revenue of non-store retailers increased 5.7% in 2012. Within this subsector, fuel dealers (+5.2%) and electronic shopping and mail-order houses (+9.0%), together representing 97% of this industry group, recorded the largest increases in dollar terms compared with the previous year.

The cost of goods sold by retailers, representing 76% of their total operating revenue, rose 2.6% in 2012. Total operating expenses, which include labour remuneration, were up 3.8%.

The gross margin as a share of operating revenue edged up from 27.0% in 2011 to 27.2% in 2012, while operating profits reached 5.0% as a share of operating revenue in 2012. Gross margins as a percentage of operating revenue were up in 7 of the 12 retail subsectors in 2012, led by gasoline stations, where they rose from 13.4% in 2011 to 15.3% in 2012.

Store retailers turned over their merchandise 5.7 times in 2012, maintaining similar rates compared with the previous two years.

Store retailers (excluding non-store retailers) are divided into chain stores and non-chain stores. Chain stores, defined as operating four or more locations within the same industry group and under the same legal ownership, have been incrementally increasing their market share for over 10 years.

In 2012, chain stores accounted for over half of total operating revenue in retail trade in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario, well above the national average of 48.5%. Chain stores in Quebec (38.5%) accounted for the lowest share of retail trade.

In-store sales accounted for 95.8% of the revenue of retailers in 2012, while the other 4.2% came from catalogue, mail order, telephone, e-commerce, and other methods such as trade shows, in-home sales and card locks.

  Note to readers

This release combines data from the Annual Retail Trade Survey and the Annual Retail Non-store Survey. The operating profit is obtained by subtracting total operating expenses and the cost of goods sold from total operating revenues. The ratio is expressed as a percentage of the total operating revenues. The gross margin is the difference between total operating revenue and the cost of goods sold.

The publication Annual Retail Trade, 2012 (Catalogue number63-270-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, or to order data, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Claude Bilodeau (613-951-1816;, Distributive Trades Division.

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