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Retail trade, March 2017

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Released: 2017-05-19

Retail sales — Canada

$48.3 billion

March 2017

0.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.L.

$0.8 billion

March 2017

-0.4% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — P.E.I.

$0.2 billion

March 2017

3.2% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.S.

$1.3 billion

March 2017

4.8% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.B.

$1.0 billion

March 2017

1.2% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Que.

$10.3 billion

March 2017

-0.8% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Ont.

$17.8 billion

March 2017

0.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Man.

$1.6 billion

March 2017

0.3% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Sask.

$1.7 billion

March 2017

2.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Alta.

$6.6 billion

March 2017

-0.5% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — B.C.

$6.8 billion

March 2017

2.3% increase

(monthly change)

Following a 0.4% decline in February, retail sales rose 0.7% in March to $48.3 billion on the strength of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Sales were up in 6 of 11 subsectors, representing 53% of total retail trade.

After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms rose 1.2%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail sales increase in March
Retail sales increase in March

New car dealers lead gain

Motor vehicle and parts dealers (+3.2%) recorded the largest gain in dollar terms across all subsectors. The increase was largely attributable to higher sales at new car dealers (+3.8%). Used car dealers (+2.7%) and automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (+1.2%) also posted higher sales. Sales at other motor vehicle dealers (-1.4%) were down for the third month in a row.

Sales at general merchandise stores (+1.4%) were up for the third consecutive month.

Electronics and appliance stores (+3.1%) continued their upward trend in March.

Store types traditionally associated with housing purchases and home renovation showed growth in March. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+1.0%) and furniture and home furnishings stores (+0.8%) both increased for the sixth time in seven months.

Amid lower consumer prices for food purchased from stores, lower receipts were reported at food and beverage stores (-0.7%). This decrease was due in large part to weaker sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (-0.6%) and, to a lesser extent, convenience stores (-2.9%).

Sales up in seven provinces

Retail sales were up in seven provinces in March. Higher sales in Ontario and British Columbia accounted for the majority of the increase.

In Ontario, retail sales increased 0.9%, primarily on the strength of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Sales in British Columbia rose 2.3%. Gains were widespread across most store types.

Following severe winter weather events in February, retail sales in Nova Scotia (+4.8%) rebounded on higher sales at new and used car dealers.

Sales in Saskatchewan (+2.7%) continued their upward trend in March, rising for the eighth consecutive month. Over this period, higher sales have been reported at general merchandise stores, gasoline stations, and health and personal care stores.

In Quebec, retail sales decreased 0.8%.

After increasing for seven consecutive months, sales in Alberta fell for the first time since mid-2016.

E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers

The figures in this section are based on unadjusted (that is, not seasonally adjusted) estimates.

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.2 billion in March, accounting for 2.4% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce sales increased 43.2% while total unadjusted retail sales rose 9.5%.

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.

There was a time when independent shops were by far the dominant retailers in Canada. Over the years, many of these independent retailers have given way to chain stores. In 1945, about 19% of total retail sales were purchased from chain stores. By 2015, this proportion had grown to approximately 46%.

Summary tables of unadjusted data by industry and by province and territory are now available.

For information on related indicators, refer to Latest statistics.

  Note to readers

Starting with the April 2017 release of February data, estimates for the Monthly Retail Trade Survey are being calculated using a new sample. The sample design has been modified to improve efficiency. The sample is periodically refreshed to take advantage of improvements made to the Business Register since the last sample selection, reflecting births, deaths and other changes to the survey population. In addition, the survey estimation methodology has been enhanced to use more administrative data. Seasonal adjustment specifications and factors were reviewed and updated.

Regular annual revisions from 2016 and typical historical revisions are also included in the new data series.

The data have been revised using historical linkage factors designed to preserve the continuity of the time series. The linkage method leads to larger revisions for more recent periods.

Seasonally adjusted estimates in CANSIM table 080-0020 have been revised back to 2009. Unadjusted estimates in CANSIM table 080-0020 have been adjusted back to 2012. Volume estimates and indices in CANSIM table 080-0024 have been revised back to 2004, reflecting a change in the base year from 2007 to 2012.

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

Statistics Canada's retail e-commerce figures are disseminated in unadjusted form. As a result, one must use caution when comparing retail sales that are seasonally adjusted (CANSIM 080-0020) in the Daily with retail e-commerce figures (CANSIM 080-0033).

Statistics Canada's retail e-commerce figures include the electronic sales of two distinct types of retailers. The first is retailers that do not have a storefront. These businesses are commonly referred to as 'pure-play' Internet retailers and are classified to North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 45411—Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses. The second type of retailer is those that have a storefront and are commonly referred to as 'brick and mortar' retailers. If the online operations of a brick and mortar retailer are separately managed, they too are classified to NAICS 45411.

CANSIM 080-0033 represents the Internet sales of Canadian-based retailers. The foreign e-commerce purchases from Canadian-based retailers are included in the Internet sales totals. Conversely, Internet purchases by Canadians from foreign-based retailers are not included in Statistics Canada's retail trade figures.

Common electronic commerce transactions, such as travel and accommodation bookings, ticket purchases and financial transactions are not included in Canadian retail sales figures. For more information on individual Internet use and e-commerce, consult the most recent release of the Canadian Internet Use Survey and/or the Survey of Digital Technology and Internet Use.

For more information on retail e-commerce in Canada, see Retail E-Commerce in Canada.

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.

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM tables 080-8020 and 080-8024 will be updated on May 29. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Data on retail trade for April will be released on June 22.

Contact information

For more information, 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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