Retail trade, July 2021
Retail sales fell 0.6% to $55.8 billion in July, the third decrease in four months. The decline was primarily driven by lower sales at food and beverage stores (-3.4%) and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-7.3%). In July, much of the country continued to implement reopening measures, which eased restrictions on both retailers and services.
Sales decreased in 5 of 11 subsectors, representing 38.7% of retail trade.
Core retail sales—which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—decreased 1.3%.
In volume terms, retail sales decreased 1.1% in July.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, provincial governments eased public health restrictions in several regions across the country, which directly affected the retail sector. In light of evolving restrictions, both retailers and consumers have adapted to changing business conditions.
Based on respondent feedback, 0.5% of retailers were closed at some point in July, compared with approximately 5.2% of retailers that were closed in June.
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 increased 2.1% in August. Owing to its preliminary nature, this figure will be revised. This unofficial estimate was calculated based on responses received from 50.4% of the companies surveyed. The average final response rate for the survey over the previous 12 months has been 90.6%.
Core retail sales decline on lower sales at food and beverage stores and at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers
Core retail fell for the third time in four months, decreasing 1.3% in July.
Posting its second consecutive decline, sales at food and beverage stores subsector were down 3.4%. Lower sales were observed in all four store types in this subsector, led by supermarkets and other grocery stores (-3.4%). Beer, wine, and liquor stores posted its first decline in three months, decreasing 2.7% in July. The drop at food and beverage stores coincided with the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions on food service and drinking places throughout the country. In July, more consumers returned to restaurants and patios to enjoy the summer weather amid eased capacity restrictions.
Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down for a fourth consecutive month, falling 7.3% in July. Despite the decline, the level of sales in July was elevated compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores subsector increased 7.6% in July, reaching its highest level since the onset of the pandemic. Gains were spread across all three store types in this subsector, led by jewellery, luggage, and leather goods stores (+33.7%). In July, 1.5% of clothing and clothing accessories stores were closed, while 18.2% of stores in this subsector reported closures in June.
Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations continue to rise
Increasing for a second consecutive month, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.4% in July, led by higher sales at new car dealers (+0.8%). The increase in sales coincided with higher prices of passenger vehicles, which is partly attributable to the global shortage of semiconductor chips.
Receipts at gasoline stations rose 1.4% for the third straight month. Higher prices contributed to the growth amid growing global demand. In volume terms, sales at gasoline stations were up 0.3%.
Sales down in eight provinces
Quebec (-1.1%) posted the largest provincial decline in July. In the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal, sales fell 1.3%.
Alberta (-1.8%) and British Columbia (-1.2%) posted the second and third largest provincial declines. Lower sales in both provinces were led by declines at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. The drops in both provinces were the largest since December 2020.
Ontario (+0.9%) was able to offset some of the declines seen in other provinces. Higher sales were posted at clothing and clothing accessories stores and general merchandise stores. In the Toronto CMA, sales rose 1.8%.
Retail e-commerce in Canada
On a seasonally adjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales fell 19.5% in July.
On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were down 2.9% year over year to $2.9 billion in July, accounting for 4.6% of retail trade. With the continued easing of in-person retail capacity limits in several provinces, the share of e-commerce sales in total retail sales fell 1.6 percentage points in July from June, reaching its lowest level since February 2020.
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 of 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 exactly the same as those outlined on 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 extensive and could even lead to a reversal of movement, especially for the reference months near the end of the series or during periods of economic disruption.
Seasonally adjusted estimates for cannabis store retailers are presented in unadjusted form since 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 under the 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 under 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 August will be released on October 22, 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).