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Canadian cannabis sales remain strong in April despite COVID-19 pandemic

 Solomon Israel~Marijuana Business Daily

Retail cannabis sales in Canada declined only slightly despite the COVID-19 pandemic, falling 0.6% from March's record high to 180.1 million Canadian dollars ($132.7 million) in April.

The new monthly retail sales data from Statistics Canada bode well for Canada's cannabis industry, showing continued demand for regulated adult-use marijuana even as the country's non-cannabis retail sales collapsed, declining 26.4% on a monthly basis.

However, the relative strength in monthly cannabis sales was not consistent across all of Canada's 10 provinces.

In the country's largest market of Ontario, cannabis sales fell by 9.6% on a monthly basis to CA$42.8 million.

Cannabis retailers in Ontario were forced to close in April due to an emergency order early in the month, but were later allowed to reopen with curbside pickup and home delivery.

Mimi Lam, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa, Ontario cannabis store Superette, said her store's sales declined about 50% from March to April as the store shifted to pick-up and delivery only, before rebounding in May.

Lam attributed some of that decrease to being unable to accept cash transactions, which historically have comprised about one-third of Superette's sales.

"Because people aren't able to use that method of payment, a lot of them have not converted to online payments for whatever reason that may be," said Lam.

Quebec, Canada's second-largest market by population, saw a 9% monthly increase in sales to just over CA$41 million.

Cannabis sales growth was flat in British Columbia, shrinking by 0.2% to CA$23.6 million.

In March, the province allowed regulated cannabis stores to start accepting product reservations online. However, payment had to be conducted in store. BC Cannabis Stores – run by the province – operates an e-commerce monopoly.

In Alberta, monthly sales grew by 4.7% to $42.2 million.

Alberta is Canada's fourth-largest province but has far and away the most retail cannabis stores in the country at 480.

In Alberta's capital of Edmonton, Mind-Full The Cannabis Store owner Norm Hollingsworth said his store stayed open throughout April.

He said sales remained steady after a significant boost in March as customers hoarded cannabis.

"It doesn't surprise me, because talking to our customers, they had nothing else to do," said Hollingsworth.

"You can't sit there and drink all day, you'll kill yourself. You can sit there and smoke a joint all day."

Monthly sales growth in Canada's smaller markets was also uneven.

  • Manitoba: CA$6.3 million (down 8.5%)
  • Saskatchewan: CA$9.3 million (up 5.6%)
  • Nova Scotia: CA$5.6 million (down 13.3%)
  • New Brunswick: CA$5.5 million (up 9.5%)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: CA$2.5 million (down 17%)

Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island, was the worst-performing province for retail cannabis sales in April.

Monthly cannabis sales in the island province shrank by 63.7% to CA$435,000, after provincial stores were closed in mid-March and stayed shuttered until May.

A monthly breakdown of Canada's adult-use cannabis sales is available here.

Solomon Israel can be reached at solomon.israel@mjbizdaily.com

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