April did not bring any surprises. Will May’s reopening bring hopeful news?
Canadian retail follows in the same footsteps as the U.S. during the only full month of shutdown. All Stores dropped -32.8%, with All Stores Less Automotive at -15.2% and All Stores Less Automotive, Food, and Pharmacies at -33.2%.
Unsurprisingly, all categories except Food categories saw significant losses in April. Clothing and Accessories Stores saw the worst of it at -86.1% year-over-year. According to Statistics Canada, only a third of clothing retailers were operating this month. With many category retailers shuttering stores, (such as Reitman’s, L Brands, Aldo Group, Bentley, Forever 21, Gap, Links of London, Bench, and J.Crew) this category has a hard road to recovery.
Some categories saw worse drops than in the U.S. These categories include: Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book and Music Stores (-65.8% year-over-year), Building Material and Garden Equipment (-11.2% year-over-year), and Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers (-62.1 over April 2019).
Food and Beverage Stores (12.4% year-over-year) was the only parent category with positive growth, with Supermarkets and Other Grocery Stores ending April with a strong 18.7% growth. However, Beer, Wine and Liquor Stores saw a negative growth of -4.6%, despite reports of long line-ups. Much of this growth was likely sucked up by alcohol purchases in grocery stores and restaurants.
Online shopping sees 120% increase over 2019
But despite the poor showing overall, there was significant growth for retailers who either started or expanded their online presence and curbside pick-up services in response to the closures.
Online sales totalled $3.4 billion during the month, an increase of 120 per cent from last year’s level. In total, online selling made up almost 10 per cent of everything sold during the month, an all-time high.
And that figure doesn’t even include sales at U.S.-based retailer Amazon, which sells to Canadians but is not included in this set of Statistics Canada numbers because it is considered foreign based. The many retailers that are based in the U.S. but also sell through physical locations in Canada, such as Walmart, are included, however.
The drop in April was almost twice as much as what economists had been forecasting. “April is most obviously cementing its reputation as the worst month for the Canadian economy ever,” Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter said.
“All 11 sectors saw deep declines, and all 10 provinces were down by at least double-digits … It’s a long road back from these April lows.”
Canadian retail sales posted a historic drop in April from a full month of non-essential business closures and strict physical distancing measures, though sales rebounded in May based on preliminary data.