Canada: Retail trade, May 2019

Retail sales declined for the first time in four months, edging down 0.1% to $51.5 billion in May. Excluding sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, retail sales decreased 1.0%.

Sales were down in 4 of 11 subsectors, representing 39% of retail trade. Lower sales at food and beverage stores were the main contributors to the decline.

After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.5%.

Retail sales down in four subsectors

Receipts at food and beverage stores decreased 2.0% in May after increasing for three consecutive months. All store types within this subsector experienced lower sales this month, with the largest declines coming from supermarkets and other grocery stores (-2.0%) and beer, wine and liquor stores (-2.7%).

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores (-2.7%) and general merchandise stores (-1.1%) were down for the second month in a row.

For the fourth consecutive month, sales at gasoline stations (+3.5%) increased.

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers edged up 0.5% in May, as lower sales at new car dealers (-0.1%) were offset by an increase in sales at all other store types in this subsector.

Sales at cannabis stores (+14.8%) rose in May, surpassing $85 million. This increase marked the third consecutive month of double-digit growth. Gains were widespread across all provinces, with Quebec and Ontario accounting for the majority of the increase.

Sales decrease in eight provinces

For the first time in three months, sales in Alberta (-1.7%) were down, due to lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

In Nova Scotia (-2.3%) and Manitoba (-1.6%), retail sales decreased for the second time in the past three months. Declines were reported at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Sales increased for the fourth consecutive month in Ontario (+0.5%), primarily as a result of higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. In the CMA of Toronto, retail sales rose 0.3%.

Following a decrease in April, sales in Quebec were up 0.9% in May, largely on higher sales in the census metropolitan area (CMA) of Montréal (+1.8%).

E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers

The figures in the following sections are based on unadjusted (that is, not seasonally adjusted) estimates.

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.8 billion in May, accounting for 3.0% of total retail trade, compared with 1.9% of total retail trade in May 2016—the year when official monthly statistics for retail e-commerce were first published. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 21.8%, while total unadjusted retail sales were up 1.6%.


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Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell