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September Retail Sales Sluggish

Updated November 26, 2020 due to Statistics Canada adjusting August numbers

Retail sales growth continues to slow down in September, showing an increase of only 1.85% but 4.7% over originally reported August numbers. After a boom in July when sales grew over 15% from the month before, the spike petered off, only increasing 5.24% in August, and now even less in September.

Sales totalled $256.3 million in September, compared with $251.7 million in August. While the total is higher than the month before, September was a bad month, with six provinces showing decreases in their retail sales, and the rest only seeing marginal increases. The only standout is Ontario, where sales increased 16.4% compared to originally reported August numbers, but only 5.31% after numbers were later adjusted (based on late reporting from Ontario) to $77.89 million from $73.97 million the month before. This is likely due to the influx of new stores opening in the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s sales were hit the hardest, seeing a whopping 19.87% decrease in sales, from $4.68 million in August to $3.75 million in September. In late August, employees of Dominion grocery store, where 40% of the province’s cannabis stores are located, went on strike. Nearly three months later, the strike is finally over, so this dispute will likely continue to affect sales figures for October and November.

Other provinces that saw a decrease were New Brunswick, down 2.9% from $6.67 million to $6.47 million, Manitoba, down 2.3% from $9.56 million to $9.34 million, and Saskatchewan, down 1.68% from 12.6 million to 12.81 million. The Northwest Territories and Yukon continue to try and find a model that works for their unique circumstances, however, in the meantime sales in the territories dropped 6.07% and 3.46% respectively.

Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia keep chugging along, as well, reporting marginal increases with British Columbia being the highest, growing 2.95% from $36.57 million in August to $37.65 million in September. Nova Scotia saw a 0.62% increase from $7.58 million to $7.62 million.

Will the holiday season turn around this downward trend? Are Canadians feeling the strains of our COVID economy? With an online shopping season rumoured to be bigger than ever, and some provinces heading into lockdown once more, the last quarter of 2020 may not be one for the record books.

September Retail Sales (x1,000)

Canada – $256,312
Ontario – $77,896
Alberta – $52,972
Quebec – $45,021
British Columbia – $37,650
Saskatchewan – $12,813
Manitoba – $9,343
Nova Scotia – $7,624
New Brunswick – $6,470
Newfoundland – $3,755
PEI – $1,681
Yukon – $698
Northwest Territories – $387