Retail sales were up 3.6% to $57.6 billion in March, led by higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, and clothing and clothing accessories stores. Sales at food and beverage stores declined.
Sales increased in 10 of 11 subsectors, representing 79.1% of retail trade.
Core retail sales—which exclude sales at gasoline stations, and motor vehicle and parts dealers—rose 4.7%.
In volume terms, retail sales increased 3.2% in March.
Retail sales were up 1.8% in the first quarter—the third consecutive quarterly increase. In volume terms, quarterly sales were up 0.5%.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, provincial governments continued to enact public health measures in several regions across the country, which directly affected the retail sector.
Based on respondent feedback, 2.1% of retailers were closed at some point in March. The average length of the closure was less than one day. This represented a widespread reopening of the economy between the second and third waves of the pandemic. In February, 12.0% of retailers were closed for an average of two days.
Despite these challenging times, most respondents reported their sales figures, and Statistics Canada thanks them for their continued collaboration.
Given the rapidly evolving economic situation, Statistics Canada is providing an advance estimate of retail sales, which suggests that sales declined 5.1% in April. Owing to its preliminary nature, this figure will be revised. This unofficial estimate was calculated based on responses received from 46% of companies surveyed. The average final response rate for the survey over the previous 12 months has been 90.7%.
Core retail sales rise as stores reopen
Core retail sales rose for the second consecutive month, up 4.7% in March on higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (+19.8%). This was the largest increase since May 2020 and coincided with warmer-than-typical March weather and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in some areas of the country.
Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores rose for the second straight month, up 23.6% in March, to their highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. The increase in March is attributable to higher sales at clothing stores (+25.0%) and shoe stores (+42.8%). Sales at jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores edged down 0.1%. In March, 5.1% of clothing and clothing accessories stores were closed for an average of one day; in February, 38.8% were closed for an average of six days.
The lone decline in March was at food and beverage stores (-1.3%), where sales decreased for the third time in four months on lower sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (-1.6%) and specialty food stores (-12.0%). These declines were partially offset by higher sales at beer, wine and liquor stores (+3.1%).