Following a 0.4% decline in February, retail sales rose 0.7% in March to $48.3 billion on the strength of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Sales were up in 6 of 11 subsectors, representing 53% of total retail trade.
After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms rose 1.2%.
New car dealers lead gain
Motor vehicle and parts dealers (+3.2%) recorded the largest gain in dollar terms across all subsectors. The increase was largely attributable to higher sales at new car dealers (+3.8%). Used car dealers (+2.7%) and automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (+1.2%) also posted higher sales. Sales at other motor vehicle dealers (-1.4%) were down for the third month in a row.
Sales at general merchandise stores (+1.4%) were up for the third consecutive month.
Electronics and appliance stores (+3.1%) continued their upward trend in March.
Store types traditionally associated with housing purchases and home renovation showed growth in March. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+1.0%) and furniture and home furnishings stores (+0.8%) both increased for the sixth time in seven months.
Amid lower consumer prices for food purchased from stores, lower receipts were reported at food and beverage stores (-0.7%). This decrease was due in large part to weaker sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (-0.6%) and, to a lesser extent, convenience stores (-2.9%).
Sales up in seven provinces
Retail sales were up in seven provinces in March. Higher sales in Ontario and British Columbia accounted for the majority of the increase.
In Ontario, retail sales increased 0.9%, primarily on the strength of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.
Sales in British Columbia rose 2.3%. Gains were widespread across most store types.
Following severe winter weather events in February, retail sales in Nova Scotia (+4.8%) rebounded on higher sales at new and used car dealers.
Sales in Saskatchewan (+2.7%) continued their upward trend in March, rising for the eighth consecutive month. Over this period, higher sales have been reported at general merchandise stores, gasoline stations, and health and personal care stores.
In Quebec, retail sales decreased 0.8%.
After increasing for seven consecutive months, sales in Alberta fell for the first time since mid-2016.
E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers
The figures in this section are based on unadjusted (that is, not seasonally adjusted) estimates.
On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.2 billion in March, accounting for 2.4% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce sales increased 43.2% while total unadjusted retail sales rose 9.5%.
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