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Statistics Canada says retail sales plunged 26.4% in April

Retail sales fell by more than a quarter in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Statistics Canada said Friday that they regained some of the lost ground in May.

The agency said retail sales plunged by a record 26.4% to $34.7 billion in April leaving them down 33.6% since physical distancing measures were implemented in mid-March.

However, Statistics Canada said early estimates suggest retail sales rose 19.1% in May.

Economists on average had expected a drop in April of 15.1%, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said April is cementing its reputation as the worst month for the Canadian economy ever.

“The Canadian economy, and retail trade specifically, looks to have been hit even harder than initially estimated as well as the U.S. economy through the shutdowns,” Porter wrote in a note.

“It’s a long road back from these April lows.”

While essential services like grocery stores remained open, most retailers did not offer in-store shopping in April due to public health restrictions meant to slow the spread of the pandemic.

However, many retailers started or expanded their online presence and curbside pick-up services in response to the closures.

Statistics Canada says online sales surged to a record high, representing 9.5% of the total retail market.

TD Bank economist Ksenia Bushmeneva said while spending is expected to begin to rebound in the coming months, the “where’s and what’s” of consumer spending is likely to differ from the pre-pandemic time.

“As we have highlighted in our recent report, consumer spending patterns have undergone quite the transformation in recent months.

“As expected, consumers are spending considerably less on travel and lodging, eating out, gasoline and clothing, but considerably more on home renovation and food. Online shopping also continues to rule the day, remaining far more prevalent than it was prior to the health crisis.”

Sales were down in all 11 subsectors in April, while motor vehicle and parts dealers took the largest hit in dollar terms as the sector fell 44.3% for the month.

Sales at food and beverage stores fell 12.7% as supermarkets and other grocery stores saw a drop of 12.0% compared with March when Canadians stocked up.

Retail sales in volume terms fell a record 25.2% in April, following an 8.2% drop in March, leaving them down 31.3% since the onset of the pandemic



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



Statistics Canada says retail sales in Canada posted their biggest monthly decline on record in March and warned that the drop for April will eclipse that loss.

The agency says retail sales fell 10.0% to $47.1 billion in March as non-essential businesses began to shut their doors mid-month due to the pandemic.

The drop was in line with economists’ expectations of 10 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada also says a preliminary estimate for April indicates a 15.6% drop for the first full month of the pandemic.

The March decline came as sales plunged at motor vehicle and parts dealers, clothing and clothing accessories stores and gasoline stations, while sales at grocery stores soared.

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

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Canadians’ pandemic purchase insights: StatsCan

New report examines what products Canadians have been purchasing to prepare for the pandemic

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 3.25.57 PMGrocery store sales increased dramatically in March as consumers stocked up on supplies including toilet paper, rice and flour in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

During the second week of March–when the federal government outlined its $1-billion COVID-19 response fund and the World Health Organization declared the virus a global pandemic–grocery sales increased 38% compared to average sales in 2019, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The study, titled Canadian Consumers Prepare for COVID-19, examines consumer purchasing patterns using sales and transaction data on grocery products up to the week ending March 14. The grocery sales increase represents 16% higher revenues than those reported in the week leading up to the December holiday, the busiest shopping week of the year.

Increasingly, Canadians have turned to canned goods, dry goods and non-perishable food items to stock their pantries. Rice saw the biggest gains (239%) followed by pasta (205%) canned vegetables (180%) and flour (179%).

While staples such as eggs, butter and bread reported increased revenues in the second week of March alongside fresh foods such as potatoes and meat, “the sales for these perishables increased by a substantially smaller magnitude, suggesting a consumer focus on stockpiling against uncertain conditions,” the report suggests.

Toilet paper sales reached a peak increase of 241% relative to the 2019 average, despite reassurances from government and bathroom tissue makers that supply was safe.

“Bathroom tissue sales, which received extensive media coverage, only began to rise significantly in the first week of March shortly after Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu advised Canadians to be prepared with a week’s worth of supplies,” the study says.

Hand sanitizer, mask and glove sales saw increases as early as the last week of January, when the first known case of COVID-19 was reported in North America, increasing 477% and 122%, respectively, and rose to 639% and 377% by the second week of March.

Statistics Canada said it would update the study in the coming weeks. You can view the current report here.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 

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Statistics Canada says retail sales fell 0.1% in September

Retail sales fell 0.1% in September to $51.6 billion, weighed down by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The result matched the expectations of economists, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

“All told, the Canadian consumer continues to look a bit tired, and the broader economy remains on pace for slightly below potential growth in the near term,” said Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at the Bank of Montreal.

The overall decline came as sales in the motor vehicle and parts dealers subsector fell one% due to a 1.9% drop at new car dealers. Sales at gasoline stations fell 2.3%, due in part to lower prices.

Statistics Canada says excluding these two subsectors, retail sales rose 0.7%.

“The ongoing strength in Canadian labour markets, the recent momentum in housing markets and wages, and the downshift in borrowing rates may have provided a modest lift to consumer spending,” TD Bank economist Omar Abdelrahman wrote in a report.

“Still, elevated household debt levels and associated debt-servicing costs will continue to cap any meaningful acceleration in retail sales or consumer spending.

Sales at food and beverage stores rose 1.2%, boosted by a 1.1% increase at supermarkets and other grocery stores and a 3.2% increase at beer, wine and liquor stores. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers saw sales rise 3.3%.

Overall retail sales in volume terms fell 0.1%.

The retail sales figures come ahead of wholesale trade results for September to be released on Monday and a reading of gross domestic product for both September and the third quarter as a whole out on Nov. 29.

The Canadian economy set a blistering pace in the second quarter, but economists expect growth slowed in the third quarter amid evidence of a slowing global economy, hurt by the U.S.-China trade war.

Statistics Canada reports retail sales edged down 0.1% in August

Statistics Canada says retail sale fell 0.1% in August to $51.5 billion as sales at food and beverage stores dropped.

Economists on average had expected an increase of 0.4% for August, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada says sales at food and beverage stores fell 0.8% in August, the first move down from the sector in three months. Sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores fell 0.8%, while beer, wine and liquor stores dropped 1.9% and convenience stores edged down 0.1%. Sales at specialty food stores increased 2.3%.

Meanwhile, sales at gasoline stations fell 0.4% as a result of lower prices at the pump, while gasoline sales rose 2.8% in volume terms.

Sales at general merchandise stores gained 0.8% and motor vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.1%.

In volume terms, retail sales increased 0.2% in August.

June retail sales flat as Raptors effect offsets auto and gas slump: StatCan

Canadian retail sales edged expectations in June with merchandise and sporting goods sales climbing as the Toronto Raptors made their NBA championship winning run, according to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw a 4.2% uptick in sales, while sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores recorded a 3.7% increase, the federal agency said.

“These gains also followed inclement weather in May and coincided with the Toronto Raptors playing in and winning the NBA championship in June,” Statistics Canada said in a release last week.

Most of the other subsectors saw stronger sales, but these were offset by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations.

Overall, sales in the retail trade sector were essentially unchanged in June from May at $51.3 billion, the agency said.

Economists on average had expected a decline of 0.1%, according to the financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

“A flat Canadian retail sales reading isn’t usually anything to cheer about. But when it comes against consensus expectations for a decline, not to mention alongside a solid gain in volumes, we’ll certainly take it,” CIBC economist Royce Mendes said in a note to clients.

Sales were down in four of 11 subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada.

Motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 2.5% in June as sales at new car dealers were down 3.2%. Gasoline station sales fell 3.4% as the price of gasoline moved lower.

Excluding sales in these two subsectors, monthly retail sales gained 1.7%. Retail sales in volume terms increased 0.4%.

Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers rose by six%, while general merchandise stores’ sales rose by three% in June.

Cannabis stores also saw a 6.2% jump in sales in June, on a low base to $91 million unadjusted.

The uptick in sales in clothing and sporting goods during the month were likely fuelled by the Toronto Raptors’ historic win, economists said.

It was the first NBA championship in the Toronto franchise’s history and marked the first for a Canadian team in one of the big four North American professional sports since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

After the win in mid-June, fans lined up outside stores to buy special edition NBA championship merchandise and millions filled the streets in downtown Toronto for a parade to celebrate the team.

“The good gains in clothing and sporting goods might be partially driven by the Raptors effect, as their championship run was in high gear in the month,” said BMO Capital Markets’ Canadian rates and macro strategist Benjamin Reitzes in a note to clients.

In addition to the Raptors-fuelled sales bump in clothing and sporting goods, the monthly survey of food services and drinking places showed a one% increase in June.

“Canadian restaurants and bars were big winners during the NBA playoffs,” CIBC’s Mendes said.