Retail trade, December 2019
Retail sales were virtually unchanged at $51.6 billion in December, after growing 1.1% in November. Higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, as well as food and beverage stores were more than offset by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations. Sales were up in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 49% of retail trade.
Retail sales in volume terms were unchanged.
Retail sales decreased 0.2% in the fourth quarter, after increasing 0.3% in the third quarter. Retail sales volumes were down 0.5%, following a 0.3% increase in the third quarter.
Sales totalled $615 billion in 2019, up 1.6% from 2018.
Higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers and at food and beverage stores
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+3.8%) reported the largest sales increase in December and its largest monthly gain since June (+5.3%).
Receipts rose 0.5% at food and beverage stores in December. Sales were up in three out of four store types, led by supermarkets and other grocery stores (+0.3%).
Sales at health and personal care stores were up 1.4%, the largest increase since July (+2.2%).
Following a 2.8% increase in November, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 1.3% in December. Sales were down at all four store types, led by other motor vehicle dealers (-7.7%).
Sales at gasoline stations declined 2.3% in December. In volume terms, sales fell 4.8%. Higher gasoline prices did not fully offset the decline in volumes.
Sales up in eight provinces
Retail sales in Ontario rose 0.4% as a result of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. In the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Toronto, retail sales were up 1.8%.
In Alberta (+1.0%), the increase in retail sales more than offset November's decline (-0.8%). The growth in December was driven by higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers.
Quebec (-1.4%) saw its largest monthly decline in retail sales since November 2018. In the CMA of Montréal, retail sales decreased 2.9%.
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 $2.6 billion in December, accounting for 4.7% of total retail trade, the largest share on record. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 31.5%, while total unadjusted retail sales rose 2.7%.
Retail sales in 2019
Canadian retailers finished 2019 with $615 billion in sales, up 1.6% from 2018. However, this marked the lowest annual movement in retail sales since 2009 (-2.9%), when Canada was in the midst of an economic downturn. Sales rose in 8 of 11 subsectors in 2019.
Rising prices drove the growth in retail sales as volumes increased 0.4% in 2019, the slowest pace since 2009 (-1.7%).
Ontario (+2.8%) and Quebec (+1.9%) led the national gain in retail sales. In contrast, sales in Alberta decreased 0.9% following a 2.0% increase in 2018. Sales were down in Saskatchewan (-0.5%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-0.3%) for the second consecutive year.
Motor vehicle and parts dealers lead sales growth
Motor vehicle and parts dealers (+2.5%) reassumed their place as the primary contributor to Canadian retail sales growth in 2019, after growth in the subsector slowed to 0.8% in 2018. Sales at new car dealers (+2.3%) accounted for just under one-third of the $9.5 billion increase in Canada's total retail sales. This was partially due to higher prices for passenger vehicles, coinciding with the depreciation of the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar in 2019.
Receipts at supermarkets and other grocery stores rose 2.6% in 2019 on higher prices, while sales volumes fell 0.9%. The price increases were largely a consequence of exchange rate pressures, supply issues in origin regions of imported produce and higher international demand for Canadian beef. Lower sales at convenience stores (-3.5%) resulted in the food and beverage stores subsector (+2.2%) growing at its slowest pace since 2013.
Sales at general merchandise stores, the third largest retail subsector, rose 3.9% in 2019.
Gasoline stations' sales down on lower gas prices
Sales at gasoline stations fell 3.7% in 2019 due to lower gasoline prices, while volumes rose 0.8%. According to the Consumer Price Index, gasoline prices were 6.1% lower on an average annual basis compared with 2018. Crude oil prices fell due to lower international demand in the wake of decelerating global economic growth. These downward pressures were partially offset by a number of temporary North American refinery shutdowns and the introduction of carbon levies in some Canadian provinces.
Cannabis sales exceed $1 billion
Sales at cannabis stores totalled $1.2 billion during the first full calendar year of legal marijuana sales. More cannabis stores were opened in 2019, increasing the average Canadian's proximity to brick and mortar cannabis stores.
E-commerce continues to capture a larger share of the retail sector
The pace of e-commerce sales growth accelerated to 22.4% in 2019, with online sales from store and non-store retailers reaching a combined $22.1 billion. As a result, the share of retail e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales continued to grow in 2019, reaching 3.5%. During November and December, when holiday shopping and retail promotions occur, e-commerce accounted for 4.6% of total retail sales, up from 3.9% in 2018 and the highest level on record.
Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.
For information regarding cannabis statistics, consult the Cannabis Stats Hub.
Seasonally adjusted estimates for cannabis store retailers are presented in unadjusted form as there is no seasonal pattern established by official statistics yet. Establishing such a pattern requires several months of observed data. In the interim, the seasonally adjusted estimates for cannabis store retailers will be identical to the unadjusted figures.
Statistics Canada's retail e-commerce figures include the electronic sales of two distinct types of retailers. The first type 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 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.
Some 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 retail e-commerce in Canada, see "Retail E-Commerce in Canada."
Total retail sales expressed in volume terms are calculated by deflating current dollar values using consumer price indexes. The retail sales series in chained (2012) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2012 as the reference year.
Real-time tables 20-10-0054-01 and 20-10-0079-01 will be updated soon.
Data on retail trade for January will be released on March 20.
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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