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Retail trade, September 2021

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Released: 2021-11-19

Retail sales — Canada

$56.6 billion

September 2021

-0.6% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.L.

$861.7 millions

September 2021

3.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — P.E.I.

$252.8 millions

September 2021

1.5% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.S.

$1,607.7 millions

September 2021

3.5% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.B.

$1,280.7 millions

September 2021

0.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Que.

$12,789.7 millions

September 2021

2.0% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Ont.

$20,136.8 millions

September 2021

-4.4% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Man.

$1,993.5 millions

September 2021

1.1% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Sask.

$1,796.3 millions

September 2021

0.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Alta.

$7,424.7 millions

September 2021

1.7% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — B.C.

$8,303.3 millions

September 2021

1.1% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Y.T.

$78.7 millions

September 2021

1.2% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales — N.W.T.

$71.4 millions

September 2021

-2.3% decrease

(monthly change)

Retail sales — Nvt.

$45.7 millions

September 2021

1.9% increase

(monthly change)

Retail sales were down 0.6% to $56.6 billion in September. The decline was led by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (-1.6%) as new car dealer sales (-2.8%) continued to struggle amid global supply shortages for semiconductor chips.

Sales decreased in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 63.5% of retail trade.

Core retail sales, which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers, decreased 0.3%.

In volume terms, retail sales decreased 1.1% in September.

Retail sales were up 2.7% in the third quarter, the largest increase since the third quarter of 2020. In volume terms, quarterly sales were up 1.5%.

Based on respondent feedback, 0.5% of retailers were closed at some point in September, compared with approximately 0.6% in August. This is the third straight month that less than 1% of retailers experienced closures.

Given the rapidly evolving economic situation, Statistics Canada is providing an advance estimate of retail sales, which suggests that sales increased 1.0% in October. Owing to its early nature, this figure will be revised. This unofficial estimate was calculated based on responses received from 50.3% of companies surveyed. The average final response rate for the survey over the previous 12 months has been 89.5%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail sales decrease in September
Retail sales decrease in September

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fall while gasoline station receipts rise for a fifth consecutive month

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers declined 1.6% in September. The decrease was largest at new car dealers (-2.8%) as semiconductor shortages continued to impact supply. This was the largest decline at new car dealers since sales declined 11.1% in December 2020. Higher sales at used car dealers (+6.3%) slightly offset the declines at new car dealers.

The New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey noted a 19% decline in unit sales of new motor vehicles compared with September 2020. This was primarily driven by a decline to light trucks and SUVs where unit sales fell 23% from the year prior. Total unit sales were down 17% compared with September 2019 levels, before the pandemic.

Receipts at gasoline stations increased 0.2% in September, up for the fifth consecutive month. In volume terms, sales were down 0.7%.

Core retail sales decline on lower sales at clothing stores

Core retail sales decreased 0.3% in September. This comes as the Bank of Canada's quarterly monetary policy report noted that as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic recede and confidence rises, spending on services such as travel and accommodation is expected to continue to strengthen, while growth in demand for goods may moderate.

The largest decline to core retail came from clothing and clothing accessories stores, where sales decreased 5.9% in September. The decline was entirely due to lower sales at clothing stores (-7.9%), which posted its largest decline since sales fell 31.1% in April 2021. Higher sales were reported at jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores (+2.6%), as well as shoe stores (+0.4%).

Also contributing to the decline were lower sales at miscellaneous store retailers (-2.8%).

Higher sales were reported at food and beverage stores (+1.3%), with gains recorded across all four store types. Receipts increased for a second consecutive month at both supermarkets and other grocery stores (+1.5%) and beer, wine and liquor stores (+1.4%). Food prices continued to rise in September, up 3.9% from September 2020, with higher prices for meat products being a primary driver.

Higher sales were also recorded at furniture and home furnishings stores (+1.3%).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Sales decrease in 7 of 11 subsectors in September
Sales decrease in 7 of 11 subsectors in September

Sales up in all provinces except Ontario

Sales were up in every province except Ontario (-4.4%) in September. The decrease in Ontario was largely driven by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Sales were down 6.0% in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA).

Quebec (+2.0%) posted the largest provincial increase with sales up for a second consecutive month. In the Montréal CMA, sales were up 1.4%.

Retail e-commerce in Canada

On a seasonally adjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales rose 5.1% in September.

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were up 1.8% year over year to $3.2 billion in September, accounting for 5.3% of total retail trade. The share of e-commerce sales out of total retail sales increased 0.4 percentage points in September compared with August and was down 0.2 percentage points from September 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.

Variations between advance estimate response rates and preliminary estimate response rates have on average been 29%. As a result, larger differences are observed between the unofficial advance estimate and the official estimates.

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 the Bank of Canada Monetary Policy Report, please consult their release at Bank of Canada Monetary Policy Report.

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.

Find more statistics on retail trade.

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 October will be released on December 21, 2021.

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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