Retail trade, November 2020
Retail sales rose at their fastest pace since September, up 1.3% to $55.2 billion in November. This was the seventh consecutive monthly gain. The increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores, along with an uptick in e-commerce sales.
Core retail sales—which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—rose 2.6% on higher sales at food and beverage (+5.9%) and general merchandise (+1.6%) stores, as well as building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+2.2%).
Sales were up in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 53.4% of retail trade. In volume terms, retail sales rose 1.2% in November.
Because of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in Canada, government officials began to reintroduce physical distancing measures, which directly affected the retail sector. Based on respondent feedback, approximately 3% of retailers were closed during November. The average length of the shutdown was one business day. Despite these challenging times, most respondents reported their sales figures, and Statistics Canada thanks them for their continued collaboration.
Given the rapidly evolving economic situation, Statistics Canada is providing an advance estimate of retail sales, which suggests that sales declined 2.6% in December. Owing to its preliminary nature, this figure will be revised.
This unofficial estimate was calculated based on responses received from 59% of companies surveyed. The average final response rate for the survey over the previous 12 months has been 87.1%.
Lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers
In November, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (-0.9%) declined for the first time since April. Sales were down at three out of four store types, led by new car dealers (-1.0%).
New motor vehicle sales were down 6.7% year over year in dollar terms in November. Sales of trucks, an aggregate group that includes light trucks, heavy trucks and buses, decreased 4.0% year over year, while passenger car sales (-20.5%) were down by one-fifth. Nevertheless, new motor vehicle sales were up 7.6% compared with pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).
Sales at gasoline stations (-1.6%) declined for the second consecutive month. In volume terms, sales were down 2.2%.
Increase in core retail sales led by food and beverage stores
Core retail sales (+2.6%) rose for the fourth consecutive month in November. The growth was led by food and beverage stores (+5.9%), specifically supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) stores (+6.5%).
General merchandise stores (+1.6%) reported higher sales in November, following a 0.5% decline in October.
Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+2.2%) rose for the fourth consecutive month.
Clothing and clothing accessories store (-3.0%) sales fell for the second month in a row, with all three store types reporting declines, led by clothing stores (-2.8%).
Sales up in nine provinces
Sales rose in nine provinces in November, led by higher sales in Quebec and Ontario.
In Quebec, sales increased 2.0%, with the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal up 1.5%. Sales in Ontario (+0.9%) rose for the seventh consecutive month. In the CMA of Toronto, sales rose 0.3%. The increase in sales in both provinces were driven by food and beverage stores.
The increase in New Brunswick (+6.0%) was due to higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.
Manitoba (-3.1%) was the sole province reporting a decline, on lower sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores.
Retail e-commerce sales surge
On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales reached $4.3 billion in November, accounting for 7.4% of total retail trade—the largest share since May. The share of e-commerce sales out of total retail sales (7.4%) rose 2.0 percentage points from October and was up 3.0 percentage points year over year. The rise in sales coincided with retailers urging online shoppers to buy early to avoid shipping delays, as well as promotional events such as Black Friday.
Retail e-commerce sales were up by three-quarters (+75.9%) year over year in November, while total unadjusted retail sales increased 5.8%.
When adjusted for basic seasonal effects, retail e-commerce increased 2.7%.
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 advance 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.
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 disruption.
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 does 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) code 45411—electronic shopping and mail-order houses. The second type has a storefront and is commonly referred to as a brick-and-mortar retailer. If the online operations of a brick-and-mortar retailer are separately managed, they too are classified to NAICS code 45411.
Some common e-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.
Real-time tables 20-10-0054-01 and 20-10-0079-01 will be updated soon.
Data on retail trade for December 2020 will be released on February 19, 2021.
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).