Retail sales edged down 0.2% in December to $38.6 billion, following four consecutive monthly increases.
In volume terms, retail sales were stable.
Retail sales edge down in December
Declines were reported in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 61% of retail sales.
Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (-1.0%) declined in December for the first time in five months. This decrease came mainly from a 9.4% decline at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores, which more than offset gains made in October and November. Declines were also reported at new car dealers (-0.4%) and other motor vehicle dealers (-0.7%). Following two consecutive monthly decreases, sales at used car dealers rose 1.0%.
Gasoline stations reported a 1.1% decrease in December after rising for four straight months.
Receipts at food and beverage stores rose 1.2% in December. Higher sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (+1.0%) accounted for most of the gain.
Weaker holiday sales
Most store types typically associated with holiday shopping registered weaker results in December.
Sales at general merchandise stores decreased 1.1%, reflecting lower sales at department stores. Sales at department stores declined 1.5%, down a fourth consecutive month.
Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales fell for the first time in five months, down 3.4% in December. The decrease largely reflected weaker sales at sporting goods stores.
Electronics and appliance store sales decreased 2.8%, a second consecutive monthly decline.
Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores fell 0.8% after two consecutive monthly gains.
Furniture and home furnishings store sales increased 3.2% in December, more than offsetting declines in the previous three months. This increase came from higher sales at home furnishings stores (+6.7%) and furniture stores (+1.1%).
Sales down in half of the provinces
Retail sales were down in five provinces in December.
British Columbia (-1.4%) reported the largest decrease in dollar terms, with widespread declines across store types. This decrease did not offset the previous four consecutive monthly gains.
Retail sales in Saskatchewan fell 3.5%, a second decrease in 12 months.
Following four monthly increases in a row, Alberta reported a 0.7% sales decline in December.
Quebec (+0.6%) reported higher sales for a fifth consecutive month. These gains more than made up for declines reported in early 2011.
Sales in Nova Scotia rose 2.4%, more than offsetting declines in October and November.
New motor vehicles and gas lead gains in 2011
Retailers sold $454.1 billion worth of goods and services in 2011, up 3.6% from 2010. Retail sales in volume terms rose 1.6%.
Sales at gasoline stations rose 17.3%, mainly as a result of higher prices. Motor vehicle and parts dealer sales advanced 4.8%, reflecting higher sales at new car dealers. According to the New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey, sales of trucks rose in 2011 while passenger car sales fell.
Sales at general merchandise stores, which include department stores, increased 3.8%.
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers posted a 2.6% decline in 2011, more than offsetting the sales increase registered in 2010.
Retail sales rose in all provinces in 2011. The highest growth rates were in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
It is possible to consult the tables of unadjusted data by industry and by province and territory from the Tables by subject module of our website.
Note to readers
All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted.
Total retail sales by volume are measured by deflating values in current dollars of the various trade groups using consumer price indexes. This retail sales in chained dollars series (2002) is a chain Fisher volume index with 2002 as the reference year.
All annual comparisons in current dollars in this release use the sum of unadjusted monthly data. With the release of data in April, seasonally adjusted monthly figures for 2011 will be revised to equal the sum of the unadjusted data.
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