Sales in the retail trade sector advanced for the first time in three months, increasing 0.4% in July to $51.5 billion. Higher sales were reported in 6 of 11 sub-sectors representing 71% of retail trade. After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms were essentially unchanged in July.

Higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers; cannabis store sales top $100 million

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers advanced 1.5% in July, their largest increase since February. The increase stemmed from higher sales at new car dealers (+2.4%), which more than offset lower sales at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (-2.4%), other motor vehicle dealers (-2.3%) and used car dealers (-1.0%).

Rising for the fifth time in six months, sales at both health and personal care stores (+2.6%) and food and beverage stores (+0.6%) were up in July. In the food and beverage stores sub-sector, higher receipts at supermarkets and other grocery stores (+0.9%) led the gain.

Miscellaneous store retailers were up 1.7% in July, bolstered by higher sales at cannabis stores (+14.3%). Sales at cannabis stores exceeded $100 million for the first time. Gains at cannabis stores were widespread, and across all provinces, with double-digit growth reported in eight provinces. Throughout July, there were over 300 cannabis stores in operation across Canada, a number that has more than doubled since legalization in October 2018.

Following a 3.7% decline in June, retail sales at gasoline stations edged up 0.3%, fuelled by higher prices. According to the Consumer Price Index, the price of gasoline in July was up 3.3% on an unadjusted basis. In volume terms, gasoline sales declined 1.5%.

Sales at building materials and garden equipment and supplies dealers decreased 3.2% after increasing 5.0% in June. Sales in this sub-sector remained above the level observed in May.

Sales up in six provinces and all census metropolitan areas

Provincially, retail sales were up in six provinces, with the largest increases observed in Ontario and, to a lesser extent, the Prairie provinces.

The gain in Manitoba coincided with a percentage point reduction in the provincial sales tax, effective July 1, 2019.

In Quebec, retail sales were down 0.4% despite higher sales in the CMA of Montréal (+0.5%).

Lower sales were reported in British Columbia (-0.8%). However, sales in the CMA of Vancouver rose 0.5%.

E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers

On an unadjusted basis (that is, not seasonally adjusted), retail e-commerce sales were $1.8 billion in July, accounting for 3.2% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 32.8%, while total unadjusted retail sales were up 3.7%. 

Source: Statistics Canada