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flag Canada Canada: Distributing a product

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Types of Outlet

Supermarkets, food markets, traditional grocery stores, convenience stores
Food and non-food. There are many of them and they are common in the bigger towns. There is at least one food store in each town.
Metro, Maxi, Walmart
Specialized hypermarkets
Hypermarkets located on the outskirts of towns and specialized in a sector of activity.
Hardware-DIY-Decoration: Home Dépot
Culture : Chapters
Sports : Canadian Tire
Electrical appliances: The Brick
Electronics: Future Shop, Best Buy
Toys: Toy's r us
Automobile parts: Canadian Tire
Office supplies: Staples (wholesale)
Department stores
Located in the city center, or in shopping malls.
Sears, La Baie, Walmart
Discount stores
Mainly for clothes and shoes.
Cash & Carry
Hypermarkets reserved for professionals.
Specialized shopping chains
Chains or franchises.
Pharmaceuticals: Jean Coutu
Textiles: Fabricville (in French), Fabricland
Small items for personal care: Centre du Rasoir - Personal Edge

Evolution of the Retail Sector

Growth and Regulation

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian retail sales increased by 11.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year at 674 billion CAD which is cause for cautious optimism that the sector is recovering from Covid-19. Retail sales in the food and beverage stores reached 143.66 billion in 2021 compare to 142.1 in 2020. Among the sectors that recorded the greatest growth in the period after the Covid-19 lockdown are food and beverage stores (+4.8%) and clothing and clothing accessories stores (+3.9%).

Consumers in Canada, especially those in low-income and middle-class households, tend to be price-conscious when buying food and drink, which creates a strong demand for private label products at promotional prices. Thus, convenience stores keep introducing different product ranges, reducing prices and changing their layouts to attract new consumers. Convenience stores and forecourt retailers continue to face strong competition from other channels such as supermarkets and hypermarkets, which provide consumers with a wider product profile, and now also a better price offering. In addition, the increasing diversity within the Canadian population is supporting the expansion of the ethnic stores. Online shopping is a growing sector, think of the launch of Amazon Fresh in the country.

Market share

The Canadian retail market is highly consolidated, with five grocery “majors” commanding over 62% of the retail share of market in 2021: Loblaws (27% market share), Sobeys, Metro, Costco, and Walmart.

The market is shared as following, in value:

  • 58% supermarkets and traditional format stores
  • 20% mass merchandisers stores
  • 7% independant and speciality stores
  • 9% chemists
  • 3% convenience stores and gas station
Retail Sector Organisations
AMDEQ (Association of shopkeepers, convenience storekeepers and grocers of Quebec)
Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers
Retail council of Canada


Internet access
With an 88.5% internet penetration rate, Canada continues to be among the most connected countries in the world. According to comScore, Canadians spend more hours online than anyone else in the world (36.7 per month), seeking out an average of 3,238 unique web pages per month. The majority of Canadians still use a desktop or laptop computer to access the Internet (67%), but those between 18 and 34 are less likely to do so (54%) and often prefer to connect through a smartphone (41%). Data by comScore confirms that the use of smartphones in Canada continues to grow, with a penetration rate of 81% in 2017 (+6% over the previous year). Moreover, 9% of Canadians report having 10 or more Internet-connected devices in their household. Email continues to be the number one online activity for Canadians, with 92% citing it as a frequent reason for accessing the web. Other popular internet activities include banking (68%), social media (59%) and reading the news or current events (55%). The most popular web search engines in Canada are Google (67.5%), Yahoo (21%) and Bing (9.6%).
E-commerce market
For the past decade, e-commerce sales have grown at a far higher rate than traditional retail sales. Total Canadian e-Commerce revenue in 2017 reached US$ 20.16 billion, and is expected to grow to US$ 28.7 billion by 2021. Major online retailers in Canada include Walmart, Amazon, Dell, Sears, Staples, Costco and Best Buy. Although Canadians prefer to support Canadian businesses, a significant proportion of the nation’s e-Commerce spending goes to non-Canadian websites: 67% of online purchases Canadians made in 2016 were from other countries. One-third of the total spending is in the United States and the rest in Asia (primarily China) and Europe.  Canadians cite lower prices and better selection as principal reasons for shopping outside the country. Regarding the B2B e-Commerce market, virtually all Canadian small business owners report making online purchases.
Social media
In 2017, there were approximately 22.7 million social network users in Canada. Advertising expenditures on social media were estimated to have reached nearly CA$ 835 million by the end of 2017. Given the increasing access to and dominant presence of younger consumers on social media sites, digital ads have more consistently targeted social media rather than the traditional online news and information portals or information sources: currently, an estimate 36% of digital ads are placed on social media, 18% on entertainment sites, and 12% on portals. The remaining ads are placed on news and information sites and directories, among others. As of the third quarter of 2017, the most popular social networks were YouTube and Facebook, with a 74% penetration rate (in 2016 the number of Facebook users in Canada was calculated at 18.2 million). YouTube had about 16.8 million users, followed by Facebook Messenger (11.3 million), Instagram and Twitter (7.7 and 7 million respectively). Among the general population, most time spent accessing different social platforms was via smartphones, followed by desktops and tablets. Social media usage among women is growing steadily across all networks, and growth among Canadian men is slower by comparison. Women prefer using visual social networks more, with Instagram and Pinterest showing the biggest growth. LinkedIn growth among Canadian males is almost double the usage of women.

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Distance selling

Evolution of the Sector
According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA), direct selling retail sales in 2016 increased 5.8% and accounted for USD 1,917 million. 1,283,000 independent representatives are involved in direct selling.

Direct selling, in a way, has existed in Canada since 1882 with Carsleys' launch of the first direct sales catalog (the company disappeared in 1977). The current direct selling sector in Canada is fragmented, with New Avon having a 16% value share in 2017 followed by Amway. Other relevant companies include Arbonne, Cutco/Vector Marketing, Mary Kay, Nu Skin, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, Scentsy, Steeped Tea and Unicity. Main products sold include beauty and personal care items, homewares, and home furnishing, although farm operators also use direct selling to grow their business. Though dominated by female representatives, companies view Millennials as both customers and the next generation of direct sellers.

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Latest Update: June 2024