Statistics Canada reports that retail sales rose for the third consecutive month, up 0.4% to $52.0 billion in January. The increase was primarily attributable to higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, both of which were down in December. The other nine sub sectors, which comprise the core retail sector, collectively declined 0.3%. 

Sales were up in 4 of the 11 sub sectors, representing 48% of retail trade. After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.3%.

After outpacing total retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2019 and growing in three of the last four months, core retail sales fell 0.3% in January. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers decreased 1.6% in January, following a 4.1% increase in December. 


Sales up in eight province

After declining 0.8% in December, retail sales in Quebec rose 1.7% to $11.2 billion in January, the highest level on record. Similar to the national trend, motor vehicle and parts dealers were the main contributor to the growth in January. In the census metropolitan area of Montréal, sales increased 0.3%.

Retail sales in Alberta (+1.6%) increased for the second consecutive month, the largest monthly gain since March 2019. Growth in January was driven by motor vehicle and parts dealers. Ontario (-0.8%) saw its largest monthly decline in retail sales since October 2019. The decrease in January was led by new car dealers. 

E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales were $1.7 billion in January, accounting for 3.7% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce increased 9.8%, while total unadjusted retail sales rose 3.9%.

Impact of COVID-19

Statistics Canada cautioned that the impact of COVID-19 on the retail sector is yet to be measured, but comments it has received for its February note indicate business activities have been affected. Stores across the country have been shutting down in recent days as people stay at home and try to distance themselves from others in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Source: Investment Executive
Source: Statistics Canada