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A Purolator driver wears a mask as he makes deliveries in Toronto on March 24, 2020. With online sales set to hit record highs this year, Statistics Canada says that wholesalers, rather than retailers, have benefited most from the trend toward online shopping. Statistics Canada says $85 billion of Canada?s $305 billion in online sales last year went to wholesalers, while transportation and warehousing companies got $60 billion, manufacturing was worth $38 billion, and retailers grossed $22 billion.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Online sales are set to hit a record this year in Canada, Statistics Canada said on Monday, amid limits on in-person shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new data is in line with Statistics Canada’s estimates from the spring, when retail e-commerce sales more than doubled from February to May.

Online shopping fell this summer from its high of $4 billion in May as more stores opened to in-person shopping.

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Nonetheless, Statistics Canada says that 2020 is on pace to beat 2019’s total e-commerce sales of $305 billion, a figure that has more than doubled since 2013 and includes business-to-business sales as well as retail purchases.

A separate online survey of 600 adults from Google Canada in late October also suggested that 70 per cent of respondents were looking online, not in-store, for holiday gifts. (The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.)

The data comes as Canada’s biggest city, Toronto, and neighbouring Peel Region entered a lockdown ahead of the key holiday shopping season, limiting non-essential retailers to curbside pickup an online sales. Only essential businesses, such as grocers and pharmacies, are open to in-person shopping for the next 28 days, and store capacity is limited to 50 per cent. Other municipalities across Canada are also tightening restrictions amid rising COVID-19 case counts.

Meanwhile, several Canadian retailers, including Le Chateau, Mountain Equipment Co-operative, GNC Holdings, and Aldo, have filed for creditor protection this year.

Up until last year, online sales represented about eight per cent of revenue for Canadian businesses with five or more employees, Statistics Canada said in the report. As of 2019, 39 per cent of large businesses had online sales in Canada, compared with 23 per cent of small businesses, the report said.

Statistics Canada also noted that in the past, wholesalers and shippers, rather than retailers, have been the top beneficiaries of the trend toward online shopping.

Wholesalers contributed $85 billion toward total online sales last year, while transportation and warehousing represented $60 billion, manufacturing was worth $38 billion, and retailers grossed $22 billion.

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While one in four Canadian businesses had some online sales in 2019, Statistics Canada said goods sold in retail stores were often bought in bulk online from higher in the supply chain, meaning that the majority of online sales across the country were business-to-business.

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