Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.4% to $52.0 billion in January, prior to the economic impact of unprecedented efforts to deal with the Covid-19 virus.
Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers rose 1.8% in January as sales at new car dealers rose 1.5% to $11.3 billion, the second-highest level of sales on record.
Sales at gasoline stations in January were up 1.5%.
Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, retail sales in January were down 0.3% for the month.
Statistics Canada cautioned that the impact of Covid-19 on the retail sector is yet to be measured, but comments it has received for its February note indicate business activities have been affected.
Stores across the country have been shutting down in recent days as people stay at home and try to distance themselves from others in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.