Canadian retail sales fell 10% in March, April expected to be worse

Canadian retail sales fell 10% in March, April expected to be worse

Canadian retail sales fell 10% in March, April expected to be worse

OTTAWA — Canadian retail sales collapsed in March as they posted their biggest monthly decline on record and Statistics Canada warned an even bigger drop is expected for April as closures due to pandemic ran the entire month.

The agency said Friday retail sales fell 10.0 per cent to $47.1 billion in March as non-essential businesses began to shut their doors mid-month due to the pandemic. It estimated about 40 per cent of retailers closed their doors during the month.

However, Statistics Canada also said a preliminary estimate for April indicates a 15.6 per cent drop for the first full month of the pandemic.

The March retail numbers were in line with economists’ average expectations according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Royal Bank senior economist Josh Nye said there is “some light at the end of the tunnel” as the bank’s data shows spending started to tick higher toward the end of April.

“That trend should continue in May, particularly now that some retailers are being allowed to re-open,” Nye wrote in a report.

“But it will be a long road to recovery for many in the sector. Safety protocols will limit traffic through stores and consumers are likely to remain cautious due to both health and economic concerns.”

The drop in March came as sales plunged a record 35.6 per cent at motor vehicle and parts dealers with sales at new car dealers down 38.5 per cent for the month.

Record declines were also reported for clothing and clothing accessories stores and gasoline stations as they fell 51.3 per cent and 19.8 per cent respectively.

But while Canadians stopped buying some things, sales of others soared as shoppers stocked up on household essentials.

Food and beverage stores, which gained 22.8 per cent, and general merchandise stores, which climbed 6.4 per cent, rose to their highest levels on record and posted their largest monthly gains.

Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales were down 0.4 per cent for the month.

Many retailers responded to pandemic measures by opening or expand their e-commerce operations.

Statistics Canada said retail e-commerce sales totalled $2.2 billion in March, up 40.4 per cent compared with year ago.

In recent days, provinces have started to ease restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 and forced the closure of many retailers.

However, TD Bank economist Omar Abdelrahman cautioned that consumer spending patterns will likely look a bit different over the foreseeable future.

“In a recent report, we highlighted that household savings rates are expected to rise in the face of elevated economic and labour market uncertainty, prompting consumer caution and substitution away from discretionary purchases,” Abdelrahman said.

Regionally, sales were down in every province as Quebec posted the largest percentage decline at 15.7 per cent. Alberta fell 13 per cent, while Ontario dropped 9.0 per cent.

The retail sales report comes ahead of gross domestic product figures expected on May 29.

A preliminary estimate by Statistics Canada last month pointed to a nine per cent drop in GDP for March.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Retail

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read