Following three consecutive monthly increases, retail sales in April declined 1.2% to $49.5 billion. The decrease was primarily due to lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers. Inclement weather in many parts of Canada may have contributed to the overall decline in April. Excluding sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales were down 0.1% in April.
Sales were down in 8 of 11 subsectors, representing 65% of retail trade.
Removing the effect of price changes, retail sales in volume terms declined 1.4%.
Sales down at motor vehicle and parts dealers
Motor vehicle and parts dealers posted a 4.3% decline in April. Sales at new car dealers fell 5.1%, after increasing 3.7% in March and 2.2% in February. Used car dealers reported a 4.1% decrease in sales in April. Ontario, which accounted for the majority of the decline in dollar terms at motor vehicle and parts dealers, experienced cooler than usual temperatures throughout the month, as well as freezing rain in mid-April.
Sales were down at general merchandise stores (-2.2%) for the first time in four months.
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-3.3%) reported a decrease in sales for the fifth time in six months.
Sales at food and beverage stores rose 2.3% following three consecutive monthly declines. Sales were higher at all store types in this subsector, with supermarkets and other grocery stores (+2.9%) leading the increase in both dollar and percentage terms.
Receipts at gasoline stations increased 1.4%, reflecting higher prices at the pump. In volume terms, receipts at gasoline stations were down 0.1%.
Lower sales in Ontario and Quebec drive the decline
Six provinces reported lower sales in April, with the overall decline concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.
In Ontario, sales fell 2.3% following three consecutive monthly increases. Lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers accounted for the bulk of the decrease. Sales in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA) were down 2.9%.
Sales in Quebec decreased 2.7%. Sales in the Montréal CMA fell 2.6%.
Sales increased in British Columbia (+1.1%) for the third consecutive month. Unlike Ontario and Quebec, British Columbia reported higher sales at new car dealers. Retail sales in the Vancouver CMA rose 0.2%.
Sales were up in Saskatchewan (+2.2%) for the first time since October 2017.
E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers
The figures in this section are based on unadjusted (that is, not seasonally adjusted) estimates.
On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales totalled $1.3 billion, representing 2.7% of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail e-commerce rose 8.8% while total unadjusted retail sales increased 0.8%.