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Retail trade, August 2020

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Released: 2020-10-21

Retail sales — Canada

$53.2 billion

August 2020

0.4% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.L.

$0.8 billion

August 2020

-0.9% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — P.E.I.

$0.2 billion

August 2020

6.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.S.

$1.4 billion

August 2020

4.4% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.B.

$1.2 billion

August 2020

0.6% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Que.

$11.8 billion

August 2020

1.6% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Ont.

$19.7 billion

August 2020

0.1% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Man.

$1.9 billion

August 2020

-1.6% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Sask.

$1.7 billion

August 2020

0.4% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Alta.

$6.7 billion

August 2020

-1.6% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — B.C.

$7.6 billion

August 2020

0.5% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales rose 0.4% to $53.2 billion in August—the fourth consecutive monthly increase since the record decline in April. Core retail sales—which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—rose 0.4% on higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers and food and beverage stores.

Retail sales in volume terms were up 0.4% in August.

Given the rapidly evolving economic situation, Statistics Canada is providing an advance estimate of retail sales, which suggests that sales were relatively unchanged in September. Owing to its preliminary nature, this figure will be revised.

This unofficial estimate was calculated based on responses received from 42.7% of companies surveyed. The average final response rate for the survey over the previous 12 months has been 88.7%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail sales increase in August
Retail sales increase in August

Core retail sales bolstered by higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers and food and beverage stores

Core retail sales increased 0.4% in August after decreasing 0.8% in July. The increase was led by higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+4.5%), which rose for the third time in four months.

Sales at food and beverage stores (+0.8%) rose for the second time since the stockpile-driven increase in March, after falling 2.1% in July.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores were relatively unchanged in August following three consecutive monthly increases, which were related to brick-and-mortar store re-openings. Nevertheless, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores were 11.8% below pre-pandemic levels.

Sales were down at sporting goods, hobby, book and music (-3.7%) and general merchandise (-0.7%) stores.

Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores fell 0.4% in August, the first decline in four months. From May to July, Canadians directed a greater portion of their expenditures on household operations and furnishings and equipment while working from home and spending more time indoors.

Sales rise at gasoline stations and edge down at motor vehicle and parts dealers

Sales at gasoline stations (+1.2%) rose for the fourth consecutive month in August. In volume terms, sales at gasoline stations increased 1.1% as more businesses resumed activities and more Canadians travelled domestically.

Following three consecutive monthly increases, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers edged down 0.1% in August (seasonally adjusted) and were 0.7% below February levels. According to the New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey, the value of new motor vehicle sales (not seasonally adjusted) declined 4.9% year over year in August. Within this segment, sales of trucks, an aggregate group which includes light trucks, heavy trucks and buses, decreased 2.8% year over year while passenger car sales declined 15.3%.

Sales up in seven provinces, while three provinces remain below pre-pandemic sales levels

Sales in Quebec were up 1.6% in August, led by higher sales at motor vehicle and parts and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. In the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal, sales edged up 0.2%.

Higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers also drove the sales growth in Nova Scotia (+4.4%).

In British Columbia, sales rose 0.5% in August on higher sales at food and beverage stores and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. Sales in the CMA of Vancouver were up 2.7%.

In Ontario, sales edged up 0.1% in August. Although sales have increased every month since May, they were 0.6% below their pre-pandemic level in February. Sales in the CMA of Toronto were also up 0.1%.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Sales up in 4 of 11 subsectors
Sales up in 4 of 11 subsectors

Retail e-commerce sales in Canada

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales reached $2.8 billion in August, accounting for 5.0% of total retail trade. The share of e-commerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales edged up from July despite more retailers expanding in-person shopping in accordance with public health measures. The share of retail e-commerce sales as a portion of total retail trade in August was up 1.8 percentage points year over year.

Retail e-commerce sales rose 60.6% year over year, while total unadjusted retail sales increased 1.9%.

When adjusted for basic seasonal effects, retail e-commerce was down 2.0% in August.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Retail e-commerce decreases in August
Retail e-commerce decreases in August

  Note to readers

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.

The percentage change for the advanced estimate for retail sales is calculated using seasonally adjusted data and is expressed in current dollars.

This early indicator is a special product being provided in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to offer Canadians timely information on the retail sector. The data sources and methodology used are the exact same as those outlined in the Monthly Retail Trade Survey information page.

The official estimate of retail sales for the month of September, which will be based on a more complete set of survey and administrative data, is scheduled for official release and publication on November 20, 2020.

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.

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 September will be released on November 20.

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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