Retail sales in Canada posted their biggest monthly decline on record in March, and Statistics Canada warned that the drop for April is expected to be even bigger.
The agency said Friday retail sales fell 10% to $47.1 billion in March as non-essential businesses began to shut their doors mid-month due to the pandemic.
However, Statistics Canada also said a preliminary estimate for April indicates a 15.6% drop for the first full month of the pandemic.
The March retail numbers were in line with economists’ average expectations, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
The drop in March came as sales plunged a record 35.6% at motor vehicle and parts dealers with sales at new car dealers down 38.5% for the month.
Record declines were also reported for clothing and clothing accessories stores and gasoline stations as they fell 51.3% and 19.8% respectively.
But while Canadians stopped buying some things, sales of others soared as shoppers stocked up on household essentials.
Food and beverage stores, which gained 22.8%, and general merchandise stores, which climbed 6.4%, rose to their highest levels on record and posted their largest monthly gains.
Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales were down 0.4% for the month.
Regionally, sales were down in every province as Quebec posted the largest percentage decline at 15.7%. Alberta fell 13%, while Ontario dropped 9.0%.
The retail sales report comes ahead of gross domestic product figures expected on May 29.
A preliminary estimate by Statistics Canada last month pointed to a nine% drop in GDP for March.