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(OTTAWA) – May 27, 2020 - Today, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth, Leah Nord, issued the following statement regarding new data about the impact of COVID-19 upon the retail sector, found in the recent Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC):

“The CSBC is the first large-scale survey to capture the impacts of COVID-19 being faced by Canadian retailers. A review of the topline numbers, alongside Labour Force Survey Data, confirms that Canadian retail is among the most impacted by this pandemic.

As a non-essential service, and a sector that has traditionally relied on physical in-store contact, the retail sector felt the affects of closures and social distancing from the very beginning of the crisis.  Where other sectors have caught up, such as construction and recreation, these sectors are, overall, second only to the food and accommodation sector in terms of shock. Notably, the wholesale and retail sector actually experienced greater job losses (-374,000) than the accommodation and food services sector (-320,500) in April 2020,

Several notable data points in the CSBC demonstrate the effects of the pandemic on companies involved in the retail sector, including:

  • Revenue loss and ability to remain open: 47.7% of retailers indicated that they had lost more than 30% of revenue in the first weeks of the crisis, and of that, 27.7% had experienced a decrease in excess of 50%.  Within this context, 40% of retailers indicated they would have to close over 3-6 months if social distancing measures remained in place.
  • Staff layoffs and reduced hours: 50% of retailers indicated they have had to lay off staff, and 55% indicated they had to reduce staff hours.  In a similar vein, the April 2020 Labour Force Survey showed that 582,000 jobs were lost in the wholesale and retail trade sectors over the first two months of the crisis, a staggering 20.2% loss.  Over the same period, there was a 31% decrease in hours worked.
  • Innovation and Resiliency: Almost 30% of Canadian retailers introduced one or more of the following innovations in their business practices: maintaining business connections virtually, working from home for their employees, and e-commerce.  The latter was of particular interest to retailers, who have been testing online services at more than twice the rate of the national average (27.8% versus the national average of 11.6%).
    As we look to reopening and recovery, although 1 in 4 retail businesses indicated they have concerns with finding, recruiting and retaining talent going forward, almost 50% indicated that they could resume normal operations within a month.


However, it is not going to be an easy road ahead. This is not going to be like previous economic recoveries where first impacted sectors are first back.  We as consumers will need to support the resiliency of the retail businesses and employees to ensure the best recovery for the sector possible.”

For more insights about the data collected from the CSBC, click here.

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local chambers, businesses, decision-makers and peers from across the country, in every sector of the economy and at all levels of government, as well as internationally. We are unapologetic in our support for business and the vital role it plays in building and sustaining our great nation.

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For more information, please contact:

Phil Taylor
ptaylor@chamber.ca