Retail sales increased for the second consecutive month, rising 1.1% to $51.3 billion in March. Sales were higher in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 39% of retail trade.
Higher sales at gasoline stations and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were the main contributors to the increase.
After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms were up 0.3%.
For the first quarter, retail sales edged up 0.1% following a 0.5% decrease in the fourth quarter. In volume terms, retail sales edged down 0.1% in the first quarter.
Retail sales up in seven subsectors
Sales at gasoline stations increased for the second consecutive month, up 6.0% in March due in large part to higher prices at the pump. In volume terms, sales at gasoline stations were relatively unchanged from February.
Following a decline in February, sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers increased 4.3% in March. This was the third increase in four months.
Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 3.4% in March. While all store types within this subsector reported increases, the gain was led largely by higher sales at clothing stores.
Following a 1.7% increase in February, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers decreased 0.7% in March. Lower sales at new car dealers (-2.2%) more than offset the gains at all other store types within this subsector, as other motor vehicle dealers (+12.2%), used car dealers (+5.0%) and automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (+1.0%) were all up in March. Despite the overall decline in the subsector, unadjusted sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers were above the level observed in March 2018.
Sales increase in nine provinces
Total retail sales increased for the second consecutive month in Alberta (+2.4%) on the strength of higher sales in all subsectors. The majority of the provincial gain stemmed from higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations.
In Ontario, retail sales increased 0.8% on the strength of higher sales at gasoline stations. Sales in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Toronto increased 2.5%.
Retail sales in Quebec (+0.7%) increased for the third consecutive month. Sales in the CMA of Montréal were up 0.4%, the second monthly increase in a row.
E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers
The figures in the sections below are based on unadjusted (that is, not seasonally adjusted) estimates.
On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.6 billion in March, accounting for 3.1% of total retail trade, compared with 2.0% of total retail trade in March 2016—the year when official monthly statistics for retail e-commerce were first published. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 20.0%, while total unadjusted retail sales increased 1.9%.
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