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Retail trade, May 2020

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Released: 2020-07-21

Retail sales — Canada

$41.8 billion

May 2020

18.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.L.

$0.7 billion

May 2020

25.5% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — P.E.I.

$0.2 billion

May 2020

14.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.S.

$1.1 billion

May 2020

20.2% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.B.

$1.0 billion

May 2020

20.5% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Que.

$9.1 billion

May 2020

33.3% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Ont.

$14.3 billion

May 2020

14.2% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Man.

$1.6 billion

May 2020

24.0% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Sask.

$1.5 billion

May 2020

14.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Alta.

$5.7 billion

May 2020

15.8% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — B.C.

$6.4 billion

May 2020

12.1% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales were up 18.7% in May to $41.8 billion. Motor vehicle and parts dealers led the growth, followed by an increase in sales in almost all other subsectors. Although sales increased in May, retail sales remain 20.0% below February levels.

In comparison, retail sales rose 19.7% in the United States in May.

Following COVID-19-related store closures in April, a number of provinces moved ahead with plans to re-open their respective economies, which impacted the retail sector in May.

Based on respondent feedback, approximately 23% of retailers were closed during May. The average length of shutdown was five business days. Despite these challenging times, many retailers reported their sales figures and Statistics Canada thanks them for their continued collaboration.

Sales were up in 10 out of 11 subsectors in May. Motor vehicle and parts dealers, general merchandise stores, as well as clothing and clothing accessories stores were the main contributors to the strength seen in May. Although most subsectors were up in May, it is important to note they have not rebounded to sales levels seen before COVID-19.

Retail sales in volume terms were up 17.8% in May, following a record decline of 24.1% in April.

Given the rapidly-evolving economic situation, Statistics Canada is providing an advance estimate of June sales. Early estimates suggest that retail sales increased by 24.5% in June. Owing to its preliminary nature, this figure should be expected to be revised.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail sales increase in May
Retail sales increase in May

Chart 2  Chart 2: Proportion of Canadian retailers with shutdowns decreases in May
Proportion of Canadian retailers with shutdowns decreases in May

Sales up in all but one subsector

Retail sales were up in almost every subsector in May. Most subsectors experienced large monthly increases after numerous restrictions relating to COVID-19 were lifted. These increases coincided with the re-opening of many brick-and-mortar retail locations after being subject to closures in mid-March and April. The only subsector down in May was food and beverage stores (-2.0%), which experienced a record-high increase in March (+23.2%).

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (+66.3%) were up for the first time in three months in May, to $8.5 billion. Although sales increased in May, sales in the subsector have not returned to pre-pandemic levels seen in February.

General merchandise stores saw sales increase 20.4% in May.

Clothing and clothing accessories (+92.6%), sporting goods, hobby, book and music (+101.2%) as well as furniture and home furnishings (+58.6%) stores all experienced significant increases in sales, following large drops in April.

Sales at the pump were up 17.1%, following the largest decline on record in April (-35.4%), while the volume of gasoline sold increased 11.1% in May.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Sales up in all but one subsector
Sales up in all but one subsector

Sales up in every province, led by Quebec and Ontario

Sales were up in every province in May. These monthly increases were largely attributable to the motor vehicle and parts dealers and general merchandise stores subsectors.

Sales increased by 33.3% in Quebec. Sales in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal were up 32.0%.

Retail sales were up 14.2% in Ontario, following a 30.9% decrease in April. Sales in the CMA of Toronto were up 8.0%.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Sales up in every province
Sales up in every province

E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $3.8 billion in May, accounting for 8.0% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 112.7%, while total unadjusted retail sales fell 18.2%.

When adjusted for basic seasonal effects, retail e-commerce grew 0.7% in May.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Retail E-commerce sales continue to rise
Retail E-commerce sales continue to rise

  Note to readers

With this release, unadjusted monthly data were revised back to January 2018, while seasonally adjusted data were revised back to January 2015. Factors influencing revisions include late receipt of respondent information, correction of information in the data provided, the replacement of estimated figures with actual values (once available), the re-classification of companies within, into and out of the retail trade industry and updates to seasonal factors.

Sales, price, and volume data in table 20-10-0078-01 have been revised back to January 2015.

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.

Seasonally adjusted data are data that have been modified to eliminate the effect of seasonal and calendar influences to allow for more meaningful comparisons of economic conditions from period to period. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Trend-cycle estimates are included in selected charts as a complement to the seasonally adjusted series. These data represent a smoothed version of the seasonally adjusted time series and provide information on longer-term movements including changes in direction underlying the series. For information on trend-cycle data, see Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Both seasonally adjusted data and trend-cycle estimates are subject to revision as additional observations become available. These revisions could be large and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially for reference months near the end of the series or during periods of economic disruptions.

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.

Canadian seasonally adjusted retail trade statistics measure monthly sales in industries 441 through 453 of NAICS. US total retail sales have been adjusted to match this industrial composition.

Real-time tables

Real-time tables 20-10-0054-01 and 20-10-0079-01 will be updated soon.

Next release

Data on retail trade for June will be released on August 21.

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; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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