Statistics Canada says retails sales were down by 26.4 per cent in April as motor vehicle and parts dealers took the largest hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency reports retail sales in April fell to $34.7 billion and have fallen by 33.6 per cent since physical distancing measures were implemented nationwide in mid-March.
Statistics Canada says online sales surged to a record high, representing 9.5 per cent of the total retail market.
By way of comparison, the agency says retail sales in the United States fell by 17.1 percent in April and like Canada, sales were down in all 11 comparable subsectors.
While essential retailers like grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, gasoline stations and beer, wine and liquor stores remained open with reduced hours, most Canadian retailers did not offer in-store shopping in April due to restrictions imposed to flatten the curve. In response, many retailers started or expanded their online presence and curbside pick-up services.
According to the agency, early estimates suggest retail sales increased by 19.1 per cent in May, although this figure is expected to be revised.