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Retail at a glance: E-commerce sales, 2012

Released: 2014-07-08

E-commerce sales by retailers reached $7.7 billion in 2012, up from $6.6 billion in 2011. Retail e-commerce sales (+16.3%) grew at over five times the pace of the overall growth in retail trade (+2.9%). Retail e-commerce sales accounted for 1.5% of total retail sales in 2012.

Retail e-commerce sales are defined as the purchase or commitment to purchase goods or services over the Internet. The figures include sales by retailers that sell both through a store and their website in addition to retailers that operate with no physical presence. Internet purchases from non-Canadian retailers and sites are excluded. E-commerce sales by Canadian retailers to international parties are included.

On a comparative basis, retail e-commerce sales in the United States accounted for 5.2% of its total retail sales in 2012.

E-commerce sales concentrated in electronic shopping establishments and motor vehicle and parts dealers

Over three-quarters of retail e-commerce sales were attributable to electronic shopping and mail-order houses as well as motor vehicle and parts dealers. The share of retail e-commerce attributable to electronic shopping and mail-order houses (establishments retailing all types of merchandise using online and print media) grew from 38.6% in 2011 to 40.6% in 2012. This growth came mainly at the expense of motor vehicle and parts dealers, whose share fell from 36.5% to 34.8%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Retail e-commerce sales by store type, 2012 - Description and data table
Retail e-commerce sales by store type, 2012

Chart 1: Retail e-commerce sales by store type, 2012 - Description and data table

E-commerce sales increase among traditional retailers

The remaining 25% of retail e-commerce sales were attributable to establishments often considered traditional retailers. Among this group, electronics and appliance stores (7.1%) accounted for the largest share of retail e-commerce sales in 2012. Retail e-commerce represented 3.4% of total sales by electronics and appliance stores in 2012, up 15.0% from a year earlier.

Retail e-commerce sales by clothing and clothing accessories stores accounted for 4.5% of total retail e-commerce sales. Retail e-commerce sales among clothing and clothing accessories merchants increased 9.9% from 2011 to 2012, representing 1.2% of their total sales.

Chart 2  Chart 2: E-commerce as a share of total retail (select subsectors), 2012 - Description and data table
E-commerce as a share of total retail (select subsectors), 2012

Chart 2: E-commerce as a share of total retail (select subsectors), 2012 - Description and data table

  Note to readers

Data for this article come from the Annual Retail Trade Survey and the Annual Non-store Retail Survey and are available in CANSIM table 080-0026. This release is part of the "Retail at a glance" series, last published in The Daily on September 23, 2013.

A broader view of e-commerce within Canada can be attained through other survey programs at Statistics Canada. The Survey of Digital Technology and Internet Use (SDTIU) collects data on e-commerce sales by Canadian enterprises across the economy and publishes macro level e-commerce figures. In 2012, SDTIU data showed $13.4 billion in online sales by Canadian enterprises in the retail sector (North American Industrial Classification System 44-45). This figure includes online sales to consumers and businesses in any country and differs from data from retail trade surveys because SDTIU is conducted at the enterprise level. An enterprise may be classified to the retail trade even if establishments within are actually part of another sector such as wholesaling or manufacturing.

The Canadian Internet Use Survey produces estimates on the types of products purchased and the value of e-commerce by individual Canadians. In 2012, Canadians spent $18.9 billion online. This estimate includes purchases by individual Canadians from any country and of any type of item including those that are not captured in retail sales such as travel arrangements or entertainment tickets. This multi-faceted approach to data collection provides a wide view of the e-commerce landscape in Canada.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; mediahotline@statcan.gc.ca).

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