Canadian retail numbers tanked in March, but cannabis sales soared

According to StatsCan, Canadians bought $181 million worth of recreational weed in March

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Numbers released by Statistics Canada today painted a bleak picture of the country’s retail landscape this past March.

The agency reported that, with about 40 percent of retailers across the country closing their doors that month due to COVID-19 lockdowns, sales plummeted by 10 percent—which is the biggest drop on record. (The previous record was a drop of 4.5 per cent, set in February of 1998.)

Overall, Canadians spent just $47 billion at retailers, making March the worst month since 2016.

There were some exceptions, of course. Sales were actually up at grocery stores as Canadians stocked up on supplies to shelter in place. Health and personal-care retailers also did booming business.

What else did Canadians stock up on? Cannabis, of course.

According to StatsCan, Canadians bought $181 million worth of recreational weed in March. That’s an increase of 19.2 percent from the previous month.

In several provinces, regulated cannabis producers and retailers were designated as “essential services”, allowing them to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ontario, the provincial government relaxed the rules in early April to allow authorized dispensaries to offer delivery and curbside pick-up services.

Statistics Canada has already said that April’s preliminary data suggest that month’s numbers are likely to be even worse than March’s. As for how the cannabis industry in particular fared, we’ll just have to wait until StatsCan releases its next set of data on June 19.

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