Rights & Money

Huge Surge in Online Shopping

Canadians have been taking their pandemic shopping to the web

By Erika Morris


As COVID-19 shuttered businesses and Canadians isolated at home, they took their shopping online. Online shopping sales doubled over the last year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Statistics Canada report.

Although total retail sales plunged by almost 18% between February and May of this year, online sales went up by 99.3%. E-commerce went up by 110.8% between May 2019 and May 2020. According to StatCan, the average Canadian now does about 10% of his or her shopping online.

Not surprisingly, since businesses began to reopen, there has been an uptick in in-person shopping, but experts believe that, while online shopping levels won’t stay at this level post-pandemic, the e-commerce landscape is changed forever. People who weren’t accustomed to online shopping and had to turn to it out of necessity helped push online sale numbers. Now older generations may decide to stick with the convenience of online shopping.

There are, however, still many purchases people prefer to make in-store such as shoes, winter coats, and tents. Other advantages of physical stores include knowing you can leave the store with your items that day instead of waiting for shipping.

While e-commerce saw major gains, retail sales in general saw record declines. In April, retail sales went down by nearly 30% from February and more than 25% from the previous year.

The only subsector of the economy that saw an increase in in-person sales throughout the pandemic was food and beverages—sales rose 3.3%, while online sales increased by 107%. Online sales of furniture, sporting and hobby supplies, books, music, and clothing went up while ins-store sales decline. The purchase of general merchandise, building materials, gardening supplies, and health and personal care products declined overall.

Different types of retailers were affected differently as Canadians are prioritizing essential purchases and are more hesitant to splurge due to fears of financial insecurity.

Retail sales data from May are promising. Though 23% of retail businesses were closed that month, sales have nevertheless recovered by 80% since the pandemic’s worst point.



Photo: iStock/Tevarak.