Atlantic Canada’s independent voice on economic issues

Retail Sales

Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Atlantic Retail Sales
Updated May 22 with March sales data

  • Retail sales are down in the majority of stores but some, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and building/garden supplies are receiving a temporary boost.
  • The overall value of Atlantic retail sales fell by 9% in March, the largest monthly decline on record. This was due to a drop in gasoline prices, store closures and lower purchases from stores that remain open.
  • On a year-over-year basis, March sales volumes shrank by 10% in Atlantic Canada. This was led by decreases in clothing (51%), motor vehicles (39%), furniture (20%) and recreational stores (20%).  Store types with higher year-over-year sales volumes include grocery stores (12%), building and garden supplies (10%) and health and personal stores (7%).
  • Many stores in the Atlantic region have closed. Nationally an estimated 40% of retailers closed their stores in March. Those that remain open have implemented social distancing measures but many are seeing less foot traffic than usual as consumers stay home.
  • Online sales have increased, nationally up 40% in March, on a year-over-year basis. However, online sales only account for about 4% of total sales.
  • National retail sales declined by 10% in March with Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate indicating an additional 16% drop in April. Some stores should soon start to see a recovery in sales as provinces begin to reopen.

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.




Copyright © 2020 - Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. All rights reserved.Website Design by Cossette