CALGARY -- While toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rice and flour have been in high demand in Canada since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been considerable spikes in the sale of condoms, coffee filters and hair dye in the weeks that followed.

According to data compiled by Statistics Canada, noticeable pandemic-related trends emerged in Canadian grocery sales beginning in early March — before international travel bans were introduced and states of emergency were declared in nearly every province.

In the first week of March, hand sanitizer sales were 792 per cent higher than the sale numbers from the same week in 2019. The initial surge in demand for hand sanitizer was soon followed by increased sales of soap (+68 per cent over same week in 2019)  and mask and gloves (+114 per cent).  

In the week ending March 21,  retail grocery store sales were 40 per cent higher than sales in the eleventh week of 2019.

The much publicized demand for toilet paper — and unsubstantiated concerns regarding supply — resulted in an initial spike in sales of nearly 300 per cent over the same week in mid-March 2019. While sales remained strong into April, toilet paper sales in the week ending April 11, were only 81 per cent higher than the sales in the same week in 2019.

As Canadians adapted to self-isolation, social distancing guidelines and the closure of non-essential businesses, there were noticeable swings in the sale of beauty supplies, alcohol, and prophylactics, as well as items needed for home-brewed coffee.

Canadian Consumers Adapt to COVID-19: A Look at Canadian Grocery Sales up to April 11 found the following sale trends:

  • Hair colouring — Increase began in mid-March. As of mid-April, sales were up 75 per cent over 2019
  • Cosmetic products — Down nearly 45 per cent compared to mid-March 2019 sales
  • Hair styling and cutting supplies — Up nearly 20 per cent over mid-April 2019 sales
  • Condoms — Up nearly 40 per cent over mid-March 2019 sales, sales have since returned to average
  • Alcohol — Spike occurred in mid-March when sales were nearly 75 per cent over 2019, sales in mid-April were roughly 45 per cent over the same week in 2019
  • Coffee filters  — An 80 per cent spike in sales over mid-March 2019 numbers, sales remain 68 per cent higher than mid-April numbers