Coronavirus: impact on the retail landscape in Canada - statistics & facts

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a worldwide impact on people’s well-being and personal lives, social events, the economy, as well as the retail landscape. Canada is no exception to this. Over the past two years now, the North American country accounted for a cumulative total of nearly three and a half million confirmed COVID-19 cases, many of which occurred in the most populated provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta. With the majority of the population having been fully vaccinated as of March 2022, Canadians are inching closer to normal life once more.

A changed retail landscape

Right off the bat, one of the key changes caused by the virus was an overall decline in sales: over the past decade, Canadian retail trade figures had been growing incrementally with each consecutive year until 2020, when sales decreased by about one and a half percent, i.e., about nine billion Canadian dollars. From department stores to bars and restaurants, many kinds of establishments had taken a hit that year. monthly retail sales of Canadian clothing stores, for instance, had taken a nosedive during spring of 2020, right after the coronavirus was first declared a global emergency. On the other hand, sales of grocery stores and similar outlets had actually grown positively and remained significantly higher during later months in 2020 and 2021, when compared to previous years. Although 2020 was extremely challenging for retail, many industries fared much better in 2021 and the beginning of 2022.

Consumer behavior during a pandemic

The manner in which Canada’s retail landscape evolved was heavily influenced by how consumers as a whole responded to the crisis. In early 2021, for example, one in five Canadian shoppers shared that they would not set foot in an indoor shopping mall before being vaccinated, which was a significant drop in potential customers, and thus sales, for such retail locations. Another noteworthy change on the side of the consumer was the global spike in online shopping for most product categories since the first coronavirus measures and lockdowns were announced. Given that those who would normally shop in-store suddenly had to resort to the web, many e-commerce platforms and e-retailers had experienced considerable growth during the pandemic. 2020 was the year in which retail e-commerce revenue in Canada increased by a whopping 18 percent, a growth rate that was far higher than in previous years. When asked what they usually bought online instead of offline, common answers among Canadian consumers included books, movies, games, apparel, as well as consumer electronics. Overall, however, Canadians had purchased all kinds of products on the internet within the last year.

For further information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please visit our dedicated Facts and Figures page.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 44 most important statistics relating to "Coronavirus impact on retail in Canada".


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