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Retail Sales

Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Atlantic Retail Sales
Updated June 30 with April sales data

  • Retail sales are down in the majority of stores but some, such as grocery stores and building/garden supplies are receiving a temporary boost.
  • On a year-over-year basis, April sales volumes shrank by 25% in Atlantic Canada. This was led by decreases in furniture (60%), motor vehicles (59%), recreational stores (53%) and clothing (52%).  Store types with higher year-over-year sales volumes include building and garden supplies (18%) and grocery stores (10%).
  • As a response to the closures, many retailers started or expanded their online presence and curbside pick-up services. Online sales have more than doubled, nationally up 120% in April, on a year-over-year basis. However, online sales only account for about 10% of total sales.
  • Many stores in the Atlantic region have temporarily closed, but some began re-opening in May as restrictions eased in New Brunswick and PEI. Nationally an estimated one third of retailers closed their stores in April. Several stores were pushed by the pandemic to permanently close following low sales in April, including Newfoundland Chocolate Co.’s Nova Scotia locations, the Offline Board Game Café in Saint John, and hundreds of locations of Starbucks, The Children’s Place, Aldo, and Bench are closing across Canada.
  • National retail sales declined by over one quarter (26%) in April over the previous month with Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate indicating an increase of 19% in May. By comparison, Atlantic retail sales fell by 23% in April over the previous month. Some stores should soon start to see a recovery in sales as provinces begin to reopen. New Brunswick reopened May 8, PEI May 22, and Newfoundland and Labrador June 8. Nova Scotia never officially closed but retailers did close.

Quick Facts

  • Total retail sales in 2019 were $41 billion in Atlantic Canada.
  • 150,000 Atlantic Canadians are employed in the retail industry. The sector accounts for 13% of total employment in the region, second only to health care and social assistance.
  • Average weekly earnings in the industry were $600 in 2019, 37% below the all-industry average.
  • There are more than 15,000 retail business locations in Atlantic Canada. Of these, 73% have less than 10 employees, and 96% have less than 50 employees.



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