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Retail sales plunged 26.4 per cent in April: StatsCan

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales fell by more than a quarter in April as motor vehicle and parts dealers took the largest hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency says retail sales fell 26.4 per cent to $34.7 billion in April leaving them down 33.6 per cent since physical distancing measures were implemented in mid-March.

Economists on average had expected a drop in April of 15.1 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

While essential services like grocery stores remained open, most retailers did not offer in-store shopping in April due to public health restrictions meant to slow the spread of the pandemic.

However, many retailers started or expanded their online presence and curbside pick-up services in response to the closures.

Statistics Canada says online sales surged to a record high, representing 9.5 per cent of the total retail market.

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