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Annual retail trade, 2015

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Released: 2017-03-29

Store and non-store retailers generated operating revenue of $575.5 billion in 2015, a 1.6% increase over the previous year. The growth was led by higher sales in five subsectors: motor vehicle and parts dealers, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, food and beverage stores, health and personal care stores, and clothing and clothing accessory stores.

Canada's largest subsector, motor vehicle and parts dealers, again led the gain in operating revenue, up 6.7% to $141.9 billion in 2015. As in 2014, new car dealers accounted for over 80% of that increase as sales of trucks continued to expand.

Gasoline stations slowed the overall growth in total operating revenue, down 14.0% to $57.8 billion in 2015, driven largely by lower prices at the pumps.

Lower fuel prices also affected operating revenue at non-store retailers (down from $23.4 billion in 2014 to $21.3 billion in 2015). This 9.2% decrease was mainly the result of lower operating revenues from fuel dealers, which consists mainly of establishments engaged in retailing heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas and other fuels via direct selling.

The cost of goods sold by retailers, representing 73.0% of operating revenue, increased 0.6% in 2015. Total operating expenses, which include labour remuneration, grew by 4.5% to $127.5 billion.

The gross margin of retailers edged up from 26.3% in 2014 to 27.0% in 2015, while operating profit margins edged up from 4.8% in 2014 to 4.9% in 2015. Gross margins rose in 8 of the 12 retail subsectors in 2015, led by non-store retailers, which increased from 25.5% in 2014 to 30.0% in 2015.

Retailers turned over their inventory (cost of goods sold divided by the average inventory value) 5.8 times in 2015, down from 5.9 times in 2014.

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 seen their market share decrease slightly over the past three years. In 2015, chain stores accounted for over half of total operating revenue in retail trade in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia, well above the national average of 45.1%.

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

In 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, retail sales totalled $2.8 billion and grocery and combination stores as well as department stores were the dominant players in the sector. By 1946, a year after the Second World War, that figure had more than doubled to $5.8 billion.

In 1930, Ontario and Quebec contributed the most to retail trade in Canada, representing nearly two-thirds of the total, while Alberta was among the lowest contributors at 6.4%. Though Ontario and Quebec continued to contribute the most to the retail trade sector in 2015, Alberta ranked third with 14.1% of total operating revenue.

  Note to readers

Data for non-store commodities (CANSIM table 80-0029), method of sale (CANSIM table 80-0031) and ecommerce (CANSIM table 80-0032) for 2015 will be released at a later date.

Data for 2013 and 2014 have been revised.

Historical retail trade data was retrieved from Historical Statistics of Canada, Section V: Internal Trade (Catalogue number11-516-X).

Trucks include minivans, sport-utility vehicles, light and heavy trucks, vans and buses.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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