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Annual retail trade, 2017

Released: 2019-03-22

Store and non-store retailers generated $629.4 billion in operating revenue in 2017, up 6.3% over the previous year. The increase in sales was widespread throughout the retail sector, with all 12 subsectors posting growth. However, the gain was concentrated in three subsectors, with motor vehicle and parts dealers, gasoline stations and non-store retailers accounting for nearly three-quarters of the increase.

The largest subsector, motor vehicle and parts dealers, again led the gain in operating revenue, up 10.9% to $166.0 billion in 2017. New car dealers continued to post strong growth, with the sale of trucks again reaching record levels in 2017.

Non-store retailers also reported a significant increase in operating revenue, rising 19.4% to $24.8 billion, led by electronic shopping and mail-order houses and fuel dealers. The continued expansion of on-line shopping and higher fuel prices were two of the leading forces behind the growth.

Also affected by higher fuel prices, operating revenue at gasoline stations rose 11.5% to $63.0 billion.

The cost of goods sold by retailers, representing 73.3% of operating revenue, increased 6.7% in 2017. Total operating expenses, which includes labour remuneration, grew 5.1% to $137.4 billion.

The gross margin of retailers edged down from 27.0% in 2016 to 26.7% in 2017. Gross margins were up in 5 of the 12 retail subsectors in 2017, with gasoline stations posting the largest gain, as their gross margins rose from 15.6% in 2016 to 16.3% in 2017. Operating profit margins for retailers edged down from 5.0% in 2016 to 4.9% in 2017.

Store retailers turned over their inventory (cost of goods sold divided by the average inventory value) 5.6 times in 2017, down slightly from 5.7 times in 2016.

Store retailers (excluding non-store retailers) are divided into chain stores and non-chain stores. Chain stores are defined as operating four or more locations within the same industry group and under the same legal ownership. In 2017, chain stores accounted for over half of the operating revenue in the retail store sector in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, above the national average of 44.5%.

In-store sales accounted for 93.2% of the operating revenue of retailers in 2017, down slightly from 93.6% in 2016. The remaining 6.8% came from e-commerce, catalogue, mail-order, telephone, and other methods such as trade shows and in-home sales.

  Note to readers

Data have been revised from 2013 to 2016. With this release, businesses providing telecommunications and/or video entertainment services over network facilities have been reclassified from the retail sector to the information and cultural services sectors.

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

Contact information

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