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Retail trade, March 2015

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Released: 2015-05-22

Retail sales rose for the second consecutive month in March, advancing 0.7% to $42.5 billion. Despite these increases, retail sales remained below their historical peak recorded in November 2014. Sales in March were up in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 71% of retail trade.

Higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and food and beverage stores led the gain. Excluding sales in these two subsectors, retail sales edged up 0.1%.

In volume terms, retail sales increased 0.1%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail sales increase in March - Description and data table
Retail sales increase in March

Chart 1: Retail sales increase in March - Description and data table

Motor vehicle and parts dealers advance

The largest gain in dollar terms across all subsectors was a 1.5% increase at motor vehicle and parts dealers, due mostly to higher sales at new car dealers (+1.8%). Higher sales at used car dealers (+2.1%) more than offset lower sales at other motor vehicle dealers (-1.7%). Sales at used car dealers have been trending upwards since late 2014. Sales at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores were relatively unchanged from February.

Gains were reported at all store types within the food and beverage stores (+1.3%) subsector. Beer, wine and liquor store sales (+4.7%) rose for the fourth time in five months. Sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (+0.5%) advanced for the first time in 2015. Convenience store sales (+1.2%) more than offset the decline in February. Sales at specialty food stores (+0.8%) rose for the second month in a row.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores (+2.4%) rose for the third consecutive month in March. Higher sales were reported at clothing stores (+1.6%), shoe stores (+6.4%) and jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores (+4.1%). This was the sixth increase in seven months at jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores.

Health and personal care stores (+1.7%) and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+1.6%) reported higher sales for the fourth month in a row.

Following a gain in February, sales at general merchandise stores decreased 2.4% in March. Sales were down at both other general merchandise stores (-2.5%) and department stores (-2.3%).

Sales at gasoline stations declined 0.5% in March, the eighth decrease in nine months.

Sales up in six provinces

Retail sales rose in six provinces in March. Ontario (+1.5%) reported the largest increase in dollar terms, largely as a result of higher sales at new car dealers.

Sales in Quebec were up 1.0%, with gains reported across most store types.

Retail sales in Alberta (+1.1%) advanced for the second consecutive month after registering declines the previous four months. Modest gains were observed across most store types.

After increasing 5.3% in February, retail sales in British Columbia fell 1.7% in March. Lower sales were reported at new car dealers and department stores.

Newfoundland and Labrador (-2.0%) posted lower sales for the fourth consecutive month.

Receipts in Nova Scotia (-0.7%) decreased for the eighth consecutive month, falling to their lowest level since July 2012.

It is possible to consult tables of unadjusted data by industry and by province and territory in the Tables by subject module of our website.

For information on related indicators, refer to the Latest statistics page on our website.

  Note to readers

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Total retail sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using consumer price indexes. The retail sales series in chained (2007) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2007 as the reference year. For more information, see Calculation of Volume of Retail Trade Sales.

The March 2015 issue of Retail Trade (Catalogue number63-005-X) will soon be available.

Data on retail trade for April will be released on June 19.

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 Jason Aston (613-951-0746;, Retail and Service Industries Division.

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