Retail Trade: Ontario 2015-2017

Sectoral Profiles provide an overview of recent labour market developments and outlooks for some of the key industries in various regions of the country.

Retail tempered by competition, e‐commerce and economic conditions

  • Stiff competition in retail raised productivity and segmented the industry into low and high‐end markets
  • Recent retail spending curbed by consumer confidence, household debt, and e‐commerce imports
  • Weakness in CAD/USD exchange rate will challenge retailers but increase domestic spending
  • Recent employment growth in retail trade slower compared to historical rates ‐ moderate growth is expected over 2015–2017

Ontario's retail trade employment stood at 761,300 in 2015,1 making up almost 11% of total employment in the province. Retail is the second largest industry in Ontario, after health care and social assistance, and accounted for 4.8% of Ontario's GDP in 2014.2 The sector includes store retailers and non‐store retailers. Store retailers make up about 97% of employment in the overall sector, and include establishments such as motor vehicle and parts dealers, electronics and appliance stores, food and beverage stores, clothing stores, general merchandise stores and gas stations. Non‐store retailers make up the remaining 3% of employment, and include companies selling goods and services through non‐store methods such as the Internet (e.g., Amazon), infomercials, e‐catalogues, direct selling and vending machines.

The retail industry has a significantly higher proportion of youth employees compared to the average for all industries. This is mainly due to the low educational and skills requirements for many retail positions, as well as the high incidence of part‐time work which provides flexibility for youth to work outside of typical school hours. The following occupations make up the large majority (about two thirds) of the retail workforce:

  • Retail salespersons and sales clerks (NOC 6421)
  • Retail trade managers (NOC 0621)
  • Cashiers (NOC 6611)
  • Grocery clerks and store shelf stockers (6622)
  • Retail trade supervisors (6211)
  • Automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers (7321)

Recent employment growth in retail trade slower compared to historical rates

From 2014 to 2015, Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey reported a 4.6% decline in retail employment in 2015 compared to 2014, the largest loss since 1991. 3 Other employment indicators based on payroll records suggest weak but positive growth for the year.4 From 2003 until 2007, Ontario’s retail employment grew at a steady average rate close to 2.5% (see Figure 1). Employment levels in retail then fell by over 3% at the worst of the 2008–2009 recession before regaining strength in 2011. Growth has slowed as of late, compared to the pre‐recession years, with industry employment averaging yearly gains of less than 1% in 2010 to 2014. In addition, part‐time work has become more prevalent since 2008. Heightened retail competition, increasing e‐commerce, price inflation, and household spending pressures will have mixed effect on the industrial employment outlook for 2015–2017.

Figure 1: Indexed Ontario retail sales, retail employment, real GDP, and disposable income
Figure 1: Indexed Ontario retail sales, retail    employment, real GDP, and disposable income
Show data tableFigure 1: Indexed Ontario retail sales, retail employment, real GDP, and disposable income
Figure 1: Indexed Ontario retail sales, retail employment, real GDP, and disposable income
Year (Index 2007) Retail Sales Retail Employment Retail GDP Disposable Income per Person
2001 0.78 0.89 0.88 0.83
2002 0.83 0.89 0.90 0.84
2003 0.86 0.90 0.92 0.87
2004 0.88 0.92 0.94 0.90
2005 0.93 0.94 0.96 0.92
2006 0.96 0.97 0.98 0.97
2007 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
2008 1.04 1.00 1.00 1.03
2009 1.01 0.97 0.97 1.06
2010 1.07 0.97 1.00 1.09
2011 1.11 0.98 1.02 1.12
2012 1.13 0.99 1.04 1.14
2013 1.15 1.00 1.05 1.15
2014 1.21 1.01 1.08 1.18
2015 1.27 (Forecast) 0.96 (Forecast) 1.10 (Forecast) 1.20 (Forecast)
2016F 1.33 (Forecast) 1.01 (Forecast) 1.13 (Forecast) 1.23 (Forecast)
2017F 1.38 (Forecast) 1.02 (Forecast) 1.16 (Forecast) 1.26 (Forecast)

Source: Statistics Canada, Retail Sales – CANSIM 080‐0020, GDP – CANSIM 379‐0030, Employment – LFS, Disposable Income – Ontario Ministry of Finance
All data indexed to 2007=100, values for 2015–2016 are forecasts

Stiff competition in retail raised productivity and segmented the industry into low and high‐end markets

The number of retail firms in Ontario with 20 or fewer employees has declined over the decade as retailers seek greater efficiencies in scale and as smaller firms closed down in the aftermath of the 2008‐2009 recession. A shift in average firm size has been supported by the expansion of large multi‐national retailers into Ontario and the consolidation of large Canadian chain stores. Large takeovers included Loblaw Companies Inc.’s purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp, Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd.’s acquisition of The Forzani Group Ltd., and Hudson’s Bay Company’s purchase of luxury retailer Sak’s Inc. With the larger new entrants, retail competition stiffened significantly, particularly in the already competitive grocery and personal items sub‐industries. Canadian incumbents less able to compete on scale and volume, for example in clothing sales, face a competitive retail environment focused on promotional sales and discounting.5 Some of the churn in the industry has already led to job losses at several multi‐store firms in mass merchandising, apparel, and consumer tech.

Facing competitive pressures, retailers are also consolidating along their supply chains. Especially amongst larger companies, more and more are producing their own product lines or contracting with a third‐party to manufacture private‐label goods under a retailer’s own brand. These offerings are growing in importance due to their higher profit margins and lower cost to the retailer.6 They have spread from groceries to over‐the‐counter drugs7 and mass merchandise and are forcing aggressive discounting by national brands to keep up.8 The lower cost of generic and in‐store lines can also increase pressure on external suppliers and lower wholesaler markups. Lastly, diversity among store‐brands means they are no longer limited to being seen as cheap or low‐quality. Some in‐house lines are positioned as premium products and can command comparable and in some cases higher prices than their name‐brand counterparts. Own‐brands are popular in the apparel sub‐industry, where ‘fast‐fashion’ giants like Zara and H&M have expanded their market share by controlling and shortening their design and production cycles.

At the same time, Ontario retail markets have become more polarized by demand for high‐ and low‐end consumer goods. More price‐conscious households following the 2008‐2009 downturn9 and growth in aspirational consumption have adversely affected traditional middle‐market stores while boosting the demand for both discount sellers and premium retailers. Thus while Sears Canada Inc. has seen large downsizing, low‐cost stores such as Wal‐Mart, Dollarama, and those of TJX Companies Inc. are expanding even as luxury brands Nordstrom and Sak’s 5th Ave. venture into Ontario. Sales of luxury goods may be somewhat insulated, as buyers are less affected by e‐commerce10 or economic and cost pressures.11 Toronto’s upscale Yorkdale Mall, with its many luxury retailers, boasted the highest mall sales per square foot in Canada in 201512 even as the Canadian economy slowed. And while some up‐market stores have revised their Ontario plans as a result, others such as Japanese giant Uniqlo and Quebec’s La Maison Simons are forging ahead. Home‐grown brands Harry Rosen and Holt Renfrew are also refocusing, with plans to strengthen their physical and online stores in 2016. 13

A positive effect of the restructuring in retail has been to spur on retail productivity, through greater competition and the entrance of larger retailing companies, particularly in Ontario. 14 These established and typically larger players bring with them more efficient business, supply management, and supply chain integration practices. As these diffuse into the market they help to boost average efficiency in the industry. Both the province’s labour productivity overall and in retail were higher in 2014 than their pre‐recession, 2007 levels,15 potentially mediating the impact of increased sales on person‐hours of employment. Higher productivity led combined wholesale and retail GDP growth in Ontario to outpace growth in number of hours worked in these industries for most of 2010–2014.16

Spending dampened by lower consumer confidence and demographic changes

Figure 2: Consumer confidence in Ontario and Canada
Figure 2: Consumer confidence in Ontario    and Canada
Show data tableFigure 2: Consumer confidence in Ontario and Canada
Figure 2: Consumer confidence in Ontario and Canada
Year Week Canada Ontario
2016 18‐Mar 53.84 59.22
11‐Mar 53.97 58.87
04‐Mar 53.36 56.64
26‐Feb 53.61 56.66
19‐Feb 53.47 57.19
12‐Feb 52.13 55.75
05‐Feb 52.17 55.92
29‐Jan 52.07 55.25
22‐Jan 52.31 53.67
15‐Jan 53.01 53.6
08‐Jan 53.78 55.48
01‐Jan 53.77 55.85
2015 25‐Dec 54.54 57.92
18‐Dec 55.03 59.07
11‐Dec 55.32 57.64
04‐Dec 56.21 58.38
27‐Nov 56.77 58.55
20‐Nov 57.74 59.15
13‐Nov 58.62 60.62
06‐Nov 58.31 60.4
30‐Oct 57.92 59.87
23‐Oct 57.53 61.2
16‐Oct 56.69 60.55
09‐Oct 56 58.96
02‐Oct 55.55 58.75
25‐Sep 54.37 56.4
18‐Sep 53.23 55.3
11‐Sep 53.31 56.14
04‐Sep 53.27 57.24
28‐Aug 53.72 57.96
21‐Aug 53.2 57.13
14‐Aug 52.32 56.24
07‐Aug 52.04 55.94
31‐Jul 52.31 54.19
24‐Jul 53.41 54.99
17‐Jul 55 56.97
10‐Jul 56.13 56.99
03‐Jul 56.61 59.99
26‐Jun 56.81 54.63
19‐Jun 56.61 60.32
12‐Jun 56.66 60.98
05‐Jun 56.26 58.18
29‐May 56.69 58.6
22‐May 56.87 58.28
15‐May 56.3 57.44
08‐May 56.83 59.42
01‐May 56.76 59.03
24‐Apr 56.15 59.39
17‐Apr 56.09 58.63
10‐Apr 55.37 57.35
03‐Apr 55.04 57
27‐Mar 55.59 58.33
20‐Mar 55.02 58.07
13‐Mar 54.56 59.35
06‐Mar 54.22 59.24
27‐Feb 53.63 57.99
20‐Feb 53.84 57.87
13‐Feb 54.15 56.73
06‐Feb 54.57 57.14
30‐Jan 55.63 57.78
23‐Jan 56.47 58.95
16‐Jan 56.82 58.75
09‐Jan 56.11 57.14
02‐Jan 55.75 56.94
2014 26‐Dec 55.09 56.32
19‐Dec 56.2 57.28
12‐Dec 56.96 58.75
05‐Dec 57.38 58.47
28‐Nov 57.99 58.64
21‐Nov 57.39 59.19
14‐Nov 57.98 59.59
07‐Nov 57.79 59.88
31‐Oct 57.86 59.95
24‐Oct 57.9 59.16
17‐Oct 58.4 59.58
10‐Oct 59.17 61.21
03‐Oct 59.64 61.75
26‐Sep 60.01 63.02
19‐Sep 59.27 62.06
12‐Sep 58.76 60.92
05‐Sep 59.1 61.08
29‐Aug 59 60.3
22‐Aug 58.97 59.54
15‐Aug 58.83 58.69
08‐Aug 58.59 58.24
01‐Aug 58.95 58.58
25‐Jul 59.75 60.49
18‐Jul 60.6 61.76
11‐Jul 60.5 61.17
04‐Jul 59.87 59.68
27‐Jun 59.2 58.6
20‐Jun 58.51 57.9
13‐Jun 58.69 58
06‐Jun 59.54 59.55
30‐May 60.04 59.45
23‐May 59.58 58.84
16‐May 59.56 59.46
09‐May 59.49 59.72
02‐May 59.62 60.38
25‐Apr 60.07 60.89
18‐Apr 60 60.4
11‐Apr 59.04 59.41
04‐Apr 58.07 58.73
28‐Mar 57.95 57.97
21‐Mar 58.05 59.28
14‐Mar 58.39 58.16
07‐Mar 59.23 59.21
28‐Feb 58.62 58.66
21‐Feb 57.6 56.6
14‐Feb 57.05 56.31
07‐Feb 56 54.5
31‐Jan 56.64 55.93
24‐Jan 57.61 57.23
17‐Jan 58.68 59.53
10‐Jan 59.22 61.02
03‐Jan 58.76 60.71
2013 27‐Dec 58.43 60.17
20‐Dec 57.8 58.2
13‐Dec 58.32 58.74
06‐Dec 59.28 59.97
29‐Nov 58.88 60.06
22‐Nov 59.42 61.14
15‐Nov 58.98 60.67
08‐Nov 58.19 58.46
01‐Nov 58.49 58.83
25‐Oct 57.69 57.54
18‐Oct 58.03 57.72
11‐Oct 58.5 58.61

Source: Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Consumer Confidence Index

Ontario has experienced relatively slow retail spending growth since 2011. Growth was strongest in 2014 at 5.0% and edged down to 4.6% in 2015. Controlling for price changes shows a slightly better recovery in sales volumes and a peak in 2015. Spending has been tempered by moderate consumer confidence lately despite a recovery in global confidence from its recessionary low. In Canada, optimism levels were keeping pace with the international average but waned over 2014–2015. 17 Concerns around the impact of energy prices on the national economy were a factor, as Canadians were more pessimistic about the economy in 2015 than in the previous four years. 18 While overall expectations for the economy sagged, consumers were more hopeful about their own personal finances.19 Ontarians maintained a relatively sunnier outlook on their financial and economic prospects, but were still more ambivalent in 2015 compared to a year earlier. There are, however, signs of growing optimism in the province, as consumer confidence grew over the first quarter of 2016.

This optimism may spur Ontario consumers to continue spending on credit. In Ontario, credit balances in 2015 rose faster than in Canada overall compared to the previous year. 20 The province saw relatively slower household income growth over 2011 to late‐201521 as disposable income per capita grew at 1.7% over the period compared to 3.0% in the preceding decade. However, average household net worth rose as real estate values climbed in the prevailing low interest rate environment since 2009, especially in the heated Toronto market. While higher home values typically raise loan‐servicing costs for consumers, sustained low borrowing rates held average mortgage interest payment growth at 0.5% annually between 2008 and 2014.

Changing household demographics in Ontario are also expected to affect retail as aging consumers favour spending on services over goods. In fact, as the province’s age group population shares have skewed older over time, the share of household spending on retail goods has declined. The median age in Ontario rose from 37.4 to 40 between 2003 and 2012 while goods purchases as a portion of household spending fell by 3.4 percentage points.22 In their purchases, mature consumers tend to spend a smaller ratio of income on clothing and transport than people younger than 50. However, older shoppers spend more on food, beverages, and non‐prescription health products, supporting labour demand in grocery and health food stores including occupations providing services and assistance to health care professionals working in retail, such as pharmacies and optical retail stores (NOC 3414).

Weakness in CAD/US exchange rate will challenge retailers but increase domestic spending

The recent drop in oil prices has been a multi‐edged sword, lowering energy prices for consumers but raising costs elsewhere. Cheaper fuel at the pump and as a portion of transportation costs for goods has indeed freed up more of households’ disposable income. However, tanking global crude prices and the concomitant weakening of the Canadian dollar have also raised import prices for retailers. This was compounded for food prices by global supply tightness, raising forecasted food expenditure growth to +2.0% to +4.0% 2016.23 Higher food costs will challenge grocers’ bottom lines and likely tighten household budgets in other retail categories.

As a saving grace, Ontario consumers who have long crossed into the US to take advantage of lower prices may travel south less now, as they face a stronger U.S. Dollar. Cross‐border shopping, as measured by Ontario same‐day car trips, historically tracks USD exchange rates closely.24 In 2015, the number of trips to the U.S. from Ontario was lower than in any of the previous five years. It was, however, still morethan double the trips from the US to Ontario, despite the large difference in population size. A softening of the loonie and narrowing cross‐border price gaps are likely to lessen the percentage of Canadian retail spending in the US, both at stores and online, benefitting domestic retail stores. Retailers in Ontario are also catering to consumers and adjusting store hours and dates of discount sales to match the US, encouraging spending north of the border.25

Increased online sales expected to moderate growth in front‐line sales staff

E‐commerce continues to affect the retail industry and is seen as a threat to retail store profits and employment. This is especially true for Ontario, as domestic online retailers are dwarfed by internationals. The province’s closeness to several large U.S. commercial and population centres lowers shipping costs and stimulates cross‐border e‐sales. As of yet, e‐commerce remains a fraction of overall retail spending, at nearly 10% of national sales, but growth in online sales is outpacing ‘brick‐and‐mortar’ stores. In 2012 digital sales were largely concentrated in motor vehicle and parts, electronics and appliances, and clothing and accessories.26 Food sales are less threatened, due to the logistical and cost implications of delivering perishables, and only 1% of food sold in Canada was bought online.27 However, established players such as Wal‐Mart and Amazon offer non‐perishable groceries online and same day delivery in some urban centres. 28, 29

Concern for local retail employment in the internet age may be moderated by a cheaper Loonie and the logistics of shipping in Canada. Weakness in the CAD has raised import costs, as foreign‐denominated prices become more expensive. But there are signs that off‐line domestic retailers have slowed price growth to dampen some of consumers’ import sticker shock.30 However, for international online vendors without a dedicated Canadian site, foreign exchange pass‐through is immediately felt on checkout, discouraging online purchases from foreign sites. There are even signs the number of U.S. e‐shoppers aiming their clicks north of the border grew in 2015.31 Moreover, the costly last mile of e‐commerce delivery is even more expensive outside of Ontario’s south and has greater limits due to the lower population density compared to other large consumer markets.32 Firms with existing physical store networks may therefore have a leg‐up by leveraging this infrastructure to fill online orders.33 In fact, the dichotomy between online and physical retail presence may not be absolute, as consumers often prefer to access both—even during a single purchase‐and‐return. Best Buy Canada saw proof of this in 2015 when its online shoppers decreased in a neighborhood where it closed a store.34

Nonetheless, increased online sales are expected to moderate growth in front‐line sales staff and support an increase in retail distribution and logistics employment, such as customer service, information and related clerks (NOC 1453), web designers and developers (NOC 2175), and business development officers and marketing researchers (NOC 4163), and shippers and receivers (NOC 1471), as well as higher skill occupations such as trade managers (NOC 0621 and 0015). However, a feedback effect may arise as retailers are also increasingly providing the option of delivering purchases to physical stores, stimulating walk‐in sales and demand for in‐store workers. Moreover, smaller retailers are also focused on reaching shoppers online as more of them search the internet for information before a purchase. Online presence enables independent retailers to increase their market reach and focus on a niche product. This strategy may prove vital for smaller retailers that cannot undercut larger sellers’ lower prices and higher volume sales.

Sector growth outlook, 2015 to 2017

Over the 2015–2017 period, employment in the provincial retail sector is expected to be challenged by heightened competition in retail, continued growth in e‐commerce, economic restraints on consumers, and inflation driving down profit margins for retailers. As a result of below‐trend overall retail spending growth since the downturn, Canadian businesses are increasing their focus on customer retention over expansion, with retailers reducing prices to promote loyalty. 35 Tightening household budgets may benefit discount retail stores and dollar stores in particular. And although not a large part of the market, luxury goods may be another bright spot. Retail employment will grow but at a subdued rate. By virtue of the size of this industry, even lower growth rates translate into a significant number of jobs. Jobs are expected to grow by 4,700 positions by 2017.

Sub‐provincial trends

Both Toronto and Kitchener‐Waterloo‐Barrie’s relatively young and fast growing populations, as well as their robust economies, will likely contribute further to employment growth in their local retail sectors in the 2015–2017 forecast period. The Northwest economic region is seeing growth in its young population and in those 50+ which may support increased retail spending on family essentials. However, in general, more rural areas with declining populations, such as in the Northeast, Windsor‐Sarnia and Stratford‐Bruce Peninsula will likely see fewer employment opportunities in the sector. Retail employment in tourism‐dependent economic regions such as Kingston‐Pembroke and Muskoka‐Kawarthas, may benefit from stronger international consumer confidence and a weaker CAD. Due to their proximity to the US border, the retail sectors in the Hamilton‐Niagara Peninsula and Windsor‐Sarnia regions are expected to benefit from the strengthening US economy and a lower CAD, which is likely to  increase US tourism and spending in border communities.

The distribution of retail establishment size in terms of number of employees also varied across economic regions. By the end of 2014 for example, there were relatively more large retail employers with 20 or more employees in Ottawa than elsewhere in Ontario. Given Toronto’s population and density, retailers with 500 or more employees were more likely there, but the ER also had the greatest frequency of stores employing less than five people. Across Ontario, most retail establishments employed between 5 and 49 workers, and this category was most prevalent in the Northeast and Northwest ERs.36

Recent closures and downsizing met by new retail entrants in most economic regions

Increased competition in retail led to several firm closures and downsizings across the economic regions of Ontario. Retail closures are likely to have a more significant impact on employment in smaller regions.37 These areas tend to have larger shares of regional employment concentrated in sales and service compared to other categories.

The largest bankruptcy announcement was that of Target Canada Co. in early 2015. The closure of its 55 Ontario stores was estimated to lead to close to 10,000 store and corporate staff layoffs in Ontario, mostly in southern Ontario. Job loss impacts were heavier in the economic regions of Hamilton‐Niagara Peninsula, Kitchener‐Waterloo‐Barrie, Ottawa, and the Northeast where Target’s share of regional employment was larger. Further indirect impacts may be felt by malls anchored by Target locations as they are likely to experience fewer footfalls while a replacement tenant is found, affecting their incumbent tenants’ revenue. Former Target co‐tenants are also likely to reassess their leases in this light and several are already requesting contract changes.38 Desirable locations in larger urban centres will fare better than those in smaller markets.

Other large retailer closures included those of Sony Canada, Staples, Future Shop, Black’s Photography and Laura Canada. While not shuttered, ailing department store Sears Canada has been rationalizing its store network with layoffs announced in several ERs. As with Target, Sears was considered an ‘anchor’ tenant in many shopping centres and its departure could have negative indirect impacts on retailers dependent on the large store to draw in visitors.

Many of the large retailer expansions across the province were in the grocery and lower cost mass merchandising segments. Ottawa‐based Farm Boy has seen some success after expanding its fresh groceries business outside of Eastern Ontario in 2015 to London and Toronto. Rival grocers and retailers Loblaws and Walmart Canada are also expanding nationally while British Colombia‐based Saje Natural Wellness saw strong growth in 2015, almost doubling their Canadian store count from 18 to 34.

The Toronto economic region bore significant employment losses due to recent retail closings. Industry employment fell in the last two years but the local labour market is diversified with a relatively lower share of overall employment in retail. Many companies were headquartered in the region, so closures often resulted in both front‐line and back‐office layoffs. However, retailers large and small, domestic and foreign, continue to show confidence in this market and there have been some high‐profile expansions and openings in the area. Large local luxury brands such as Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen opened stores in Square One mall’s new South wing, and smaller upscale brands such as U.S. womenswear store Tory Burch, French shoemaker Christian Louboutin, Italian lux menswear store Kiton, and French accessory store Longchamp will open a new store each in Toronto. Canadian athletic luxury clothier, Kit and Ace, also opened a flagship store in August on Bloor West. Several Swiss watchmakers are slated to open standalone locations in 2015–2016 and international jewellers including De Beers, Carrera y Carrera from Spain, and the U.K.’s Links of London set up in the ER as did locals L’Oro and its sister brand Chopard. In mid‐market apparel and clothing, fast‐fashion leader Zara has expanded its store in the Eaton Centre, rival H&M’s higher brand COS opened on Bloor West, and Japanese entrant UNIQLO Canada Inc. has stores planned in the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale malls. Up‐market expansion clashed with news that used items reseller Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario closed due to cash‐flow problems. The chapter’s closure affected 400 workers, mostly in its Toronto stores, donation centres, and offices, many of whom were vulnerable workers. Elsewhere in the industry, e‐retail giant Amazon announced the hiring of 100 developers, engineers, and salespeople as part of its Canadian growth. Also to serve digital shoppers, IKEA Canada opened three Pick‐Up and Order Point locations across the province, including one in Whitby, with two more scheduled across Ontario in 2016. All will be supported by IKEA’s 397,000 sq. ft. retail distribution centre in Mississauga.

Hamilton‐Niagara Peninsula was one of the few ERs to show growth in retail positions in 2015. Employment levels were lower than their 2012 peak but higher than in 2013. Good news in the grocery segment came from Goodness Me! Natural Food Market’s newest store in Paris and an expanded Foodland grocery store in Smithville but were marred by the closing of a No Frills in Hamilton. The ER’s apparel industry and home furnishings industry saw TJX Companies, Inc. open a new HomeSense store in Brantford and reseller Goodwill Industries of Niagara announce a new 9,000‐sq.‐ft. store in Port Colborne. Less positively, Sears Canada Inc. closed a Welland location in September and Shoppers Drug Mart’s MediSystem Pharmacy closed in Brantford.

Healthy retail employment and growth in both 2014 and 2015 were encouraging for Ottawa ER, especially as it faced recent labour market headwinds and a cooling real estate market. Ottawa saw jeweller Tiffany & Co. open a standalone store and high fashion brands Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman add locations in the city. Further south, expansion in Cornwall’s retail distribution was a bright spot as the city recovered from Target Canada’s closure and continues to move away from its manufacturing past toward logistics and warehousing.

By contrast, employment in the Kitchener—Waterloo‐‐Barrie ER was less concentrated in retail and the industry’s share of local jobs was low compared to elsewhere. However, even after declining back to pre‐2010 recovery levels, retail employment remains sizeable. The local food and grocery sector saw several openings, including a Goodness Me! Natural Food market in Barrie, a Vince’s Market grocery store in Simcoe County, and No Frills stores in both Midland and Simcoe County. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. is also building a box store in Orillia, boding well for 250 future staff as thwarehouse retailer typically offers higher wages and benefits. In discount sales, Giant Tiger Stores Limited relocated and expanded in Alliston while TJX Companies, Inc. opened a HomeSense in Barrie and a Winners in Cambridge. Not all the news was positive, as Budd Stores Co. Ltd. announced it was closing three clothing stores in Guelph, Kitchener, and Simcoe by early 2016.

Retail is a relatively larger employment industry in Muskoka—Kawarthas. The smaller labour market benefited from positive announcements recently. The new Hidden Treasure Chest flea market in Campbellford added 17 vendors in November 2015, and another shopping centre in Bracebridge, The Clock Tower Centre, created 14 new retail and office spaces.

In the northern ERs, the relatively smaller retail workforce saw mixed news in 2015. In the Northeast, 135‐year old general retailer Turners of Little Current Ltd. will be moving to an expanded location at the Pearson Plaza in Elliot Lake in spring of 2016. The departure was partially offset by a new Manitoulin Brewing Company outlet on the Island. Struggling merchandiser Sears Canada Inc. was set to close its Parry Sound location in early 2016, but in brighter news, the city gained a new Rexall drugstore. Sault Ste. Marie also received bad news with the closing of mature retailer EastSide Confectionery after more than 40 years in business. This follows the closure of Stop 454, Peter's Place and an east‐end Mac's Convenience Stores Inc. location. The closingswere softened by the arrival of a DAVIDs TEA Inc. store at the Station Mall and a new Flying J Travel Plaza. Meanwhile, Haileybury lost Devost Valu‐mart, its only full‐service grocery store.

Retail news in the Northwest ER was similarly mixed. Sioux Lookout’s North West Company Inc. will be closing and relocating its Northern Store to a new Giant Tiger store in June 2016. Affected employees will be able to re‐apply at the new store. Affected by company‐wide profitability concerns, apparel retailers Aéropostale, Inc. and Reitmans announced the closing of their stores in North Bay and Kenora respectively.


In preparing this document, the authors have taken care to provide clients with labour market information that is timely and accurate at the time of publication. Since labour market conditions are dynamic, some of the information presented here may have changed since this document was published. Users are encouraged to also refer to other sources for additional information on the local economy and labour market. Information contained in this document does not necessarily reflect official policies of Employment and Social Development Canada.

Prepared by: Labour Market and Socio‐economic Information Directorate (LMSID), Service Canada, Ontario
For further information, please contact the LMI team at: NC‐LMI‐IMT‐GD@hrsdc‐


Footnote 1

Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 282‐0007, 12‐month moving average

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Footnote 2

Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 379‐0028

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Footnote 3

Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 282‐0008

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Footnote 4

cf. Statistics Canada's Survey of Employment Payroll and Hours

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Footnote 5

Danier cited tough competition and pricing challenges in 2015. Danier Leather Inc., September 18, 2105, Annual Report 2015, page 37

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Footnote 6‐label‐groceries‐1.3496088

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Footnote 7

Private label prescription drugs are banned in Ontario under a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.‐court‐upholds‐ontario‐ban‐on‐private‐label‐prescription‐drugs

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Footnote 8

The Nielsen Company, 2011, Canadian Private Label: The Value Alternative,‐summit/Private‐Label‐Canadian‐White‐Paper.pdf

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Footnote 9

Industry Canada, 2013, Consumer Trends Update: Canada's Changing Retail Market

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Footnote 10‐marketing/online‐sales‐complement‐brick‐and‐mortar‐retail‐harry‐rosen‐ceo‐says‐retailer‐saks‐entering‐canada‐amid‐cooling‐212912996.html‐marketing/holt‐renfrew‐ceo‐dishes‐on‐new‐sales‐website

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Footnote 11‐fifth‐avenue‐opening‐nordstrom‐holt‐renfrew‐1.3453558

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Footnote 12

Retail Insider “Canada's Top 25 Most Productive Shopping Centres [ 2016 Edition]”, http://www.retail‐‐insider/2016/2/top‐25‐productive‐malls

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Footnote 13‐fifth‐avenue‐prepared‐to‐open‐in‐toronto.html

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Footnote 14‐canadian‐retailers‐are‐a‐productivity‐bright‐spot/

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Footnote 15

Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 383‐0029

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Footnote 16

Statistics Canada: CANSIM Table 379‐0030 – Gross Domestic product (GDP) at basic price, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), provinces and territories, annual and CANSIM Table 282‐0022 – Labour Force Survey estimates (LFS) by actual hours worked, class of worker, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and sex, annual

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Footnote 17

Nielsen,Consumer ConfidenceTracker, Accessed June 03, 2015

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Footnote 18

Harris, Rebecca. (November 17, 2015). “Canadians have the recession blues (Survey)”. Marketing Magazine.‐have‐the‐recession‐blues‐survey‐161781

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Footnote 19

Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index.

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Footnote 20

TransUnion, (February, 2016) Consumer Market Trends 4th Quarter 2015

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Footnote 21

Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ontario Economic Accounts Tables – Sources and Disposition of Ontario Household Income, seasonally adjusted

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Footnote 22

Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ontario Economic Accounts (LMI calculations based on expenditure‐based GDP)

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Footnote 23

Charlebois, S. et al, (December 2015), “Food Price Report 2016”, The Food Institute of the University of Guelph

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Footnote 24

Correlation of ‐0.663 between average annual USD spot rates and Canadians returning to Ontario from a one‐day car trip. Statistics Canada: CANSIM Table 176‐0064 ‐ Foreign exchange rates in Canadian dollars, Bank of Canada and CANSIM Table 427‐0001 ‐ Number of international travelers entering or returning to Canada, by type of transport

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Footnote 26

National 2012 data. Statistics Canada Annual Retail Trade Survey CANSIM Table 080‐0026

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Footnote 35

Nielsen, American Express Merchant Services Monitor, April 22, 2014

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Footnote 36

Statistics Canada – December 2014 Establishment Counts by ER, NAICS, and Employee Size Ranges

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Footnote 37

Based on industry employment shares in an ER and relative industry concentrations (location quotients) Statistics Canada – Labour Force Survey custom tabulations

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