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Retail Commodity Survey, June 2021

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Released: 2021-09-08

Retail sales reached $60.5 billion in June, an increase of 6.9% compared with the same month a year earlier. Higher sales were reported in 15 of the 19 commodity categories.

In July, the advance estimate provided by the Monthly Retail Trade Survey suggests that unadjusted total retail sales increased by 4.1%. Because of its preliminary nature, this figure will be revised.

Strong automotive sales

For the fourth consecutive month, sales of motor vehicles posted the largest gain among all categories, increasing 10.8% in June compared with the same month a year earlier. Growth in automotive sales was propelled by higher sales of new motor vehicles (+13.5%), as new minivans, sport utility vehicles and light trucks (+15.2%) and new passenger automobiles (+7.2%) posted sales gains. Sales of used motor vehicles increased 7.1% from the same month in 2020.

Sales of automotive fuels continued to increase in June, rising 36.1% from a year earlier. These gains were buoyed by increasing prices at the pump, pushing June's automotive fuels sales to within 0.7% of their pre-pandemic level from the same month in 2019.

Discretionary spending on the rise

Canadians continued to spend on tools and projects related to home improvement in June, with sales of hardware, tools, and renovation and lawn and garden products increasing 5.9% from the same month a year earlier. The largest contributor to sales growth in this category was lumber and other renovation materials and supplies (+12.1%), followed by floor coverings and tiles (+29.2%).

Increased spending on many non-essential retail products was observed as restrictions related to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic began to ease across the country. Year-over-year gains were seen in sales of clothing (+12.5%); infant care, personal and beauty products (+8.1%); and home furniture, furnishings, housewares, appliances and electronics (+2.2%).

Recreational vehicle sales slide

For the first time since May 2020, recreational vehicles saw sales decline year over year, resulting in the largest decrease in dollar terms. The top commodities that contributed to a 9.8% decline in sales in this category were new recreational boats (-11.4%), and new snowmobiles and personal off-road vehicles (-14.3%).

Increasing restaurant sales take a bite out of retail food spending

With restrictions related to dining out being eased across the country, food retailers saw declining sales (-0.6%) in June compared with the same month a year earlier, as consumers returned to restaurants and patios to enjoy the summer weather. Sales of fresh food decreased 0.8%, with the largest contributors to the decline being fresh fruit and vegetables (-3.2%), and fresh meat and poultry (-2.9%).

Despite lower sales of food, sales of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages posted a 6.1% increase compared with June 2020. Sales of alcoholic beverages (+6.2%) led the gains.

  Note to readers

The Retail Commodity Survey collects national-level retail sales data, by commodity, from the same businesses surveyed in the Monthly Retail Trade Survey. No data have been seasonally adjusted. All percentage changes are year over year.

New retail commodity data for e-commerce now available

Estimates from the Retail Commodity Survey are now available for the electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry (North American Industry Classification System [NAICS] code 454110).

E-commerce figures from brick-and-mortar retailers are included with the retailer's commodity sales. If the online operations of a brick-and-mortar retailer are separately managed, they are classified under NAICS code 45411 (electronic shopping and mail-order houses). Businesses commonly referred to as pure-play Internet retailers are also classified under NAICS code 45411. Total retail sales figures do not include sales from retailers classified under NAICS code 45411.

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