Retail sales continues to grow slightly in August as working from and staying closer to home bolster key product categories - Retail Council of Canada
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Retail sales continues to grow slightly in August as working from and staying closer to home bolster key product categories

October 21, 2020

August retail numbers, as reported by Statistics Canada today, show a continued modest rebound since record declines in April, but Retail Council of Canada (RCC) cautions that retail spending is still extremely vulnerable given the uncertainly of health and economic realities.

Retail sales rose 0.4% to $53.2 billion in August, led by building materials, gardening equipment and food and beverage.  Apparel sales continue to languish at a level 12% below August 2019 (but much improved from what we saw in March, April and May 2020).  One contribution to the flatness of apparel may be that back-to-school shopping shifted to September due to late school openings.  Other interesting categories to track include alcohol, tobacco and recreational cannabis – these sales are up a bit in their share of consumer spending since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, but well off their peak from the depths of the crisis in March, April and May.

The share of eCommerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales edged up slightly from July, accounting for 5.0% of total retail trade, compared to 4.8% in July (these percentages do not include eCommerce sellers such as Amazon, Wayfair or imported parcels).  While eCommerce has levelled off somewhat and even dropped slightly in August (-2%) as brick-and-mortar stores are now reopened, online sales are up over 60% year-over-year and that looks to be something closer to the new normal.

Looking ahead, there are many challenges that continue to test retailers including impacts from the second wave of COVID-19 which has led to ongoing regional closures in some provinces.  Today’s numbers show wide variances across the country.  Seven provinces are seeing higher retail sales than they were before COVID.  However, in three provinces — Ontario, Alberta and Prince Edward Island — retailers still haven’t fully recovered.  Where people live and work also continues to have a huge impact on where they shop, particularly as a significant portion of the population believes they will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

As retailers prepare for the holiday season, RCC encourages consumers to shop early and shop safe.  Avoiding line-ups and crowds, ensuring you get the product you want before it sells out, and getting your purchase delivered on time, will be key to a happy and safe holiday season.

For more information or to schedule media interviews, contact:

Michelle Wasylyshen at


About Retail Council of Canada

Retail is Canada’s largest employer with 2.1 million Canadians working in our industry.  The sector annually generates over $76 billion in wages and employee benefits. Core retail sales (excluding vehicles and gasoline) were $377 billion in 2017. Retail Council of Canada (RCC) members represent more than two thirds of retail sales in the country. RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association that represents small, medium and large retail businesses in every community across the country.  As the Voice of Retail™ in Canada, we proudly represent more than 45,000 storefronts in all retail formats, including department, grocery, specialty, discount, independent retailers and online merchants.