Retail trade

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December 2010 (Previous release)

Retail sales edged down 0.2% in December to $37.3 billion, following a notable increase in November. This slight decline comes on the heels of six consecutive months of gains.

Sales in volume terms decreased 0.4%.

Retail sales edge down in December

Results were mixed with losses reported in 5 of 11 subsectors, representing 66% of total retail sales.

The largest decrease among all subsectors was registered by motor vehicle and parts dealers, where sales fell 2.8%. This decline came mainly from a 2.7% decrease at new car dealers, ending a series of seven straight monthly increases. Declines were also reported at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (-13.6%) and used car dealers (-0.4%). Other motor vehicle dealers reported a 6.4% sales increase.

Sales at food and beverage stores declined 1.6%, mainly reflecting decreased sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (-1.5%).

Lower sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-1.4%) did not offset the increase in November.

The largest increase occurred at gasoline stations where sales rose 7.6%, mainly reflecting higher prices at the pump. This was the sixth consecutive monthly increase in sales at gasoline stations.

Holiday shopping results mixed

Store types typically associated with holiday shopping showed mixed results in December.

Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores increased 1.9%. Sales at theses store types have been trending upward since the sharp decline in July 2010.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores sales increased 1.0% in December, the fifth increase in six months. Higher sales were reported at clothing stores (+1.5%), while decreases were reported at shoe stores (-0.8%) and jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores (-0.4%).

Electronics and appliance stores (+0.6%) had higher sales in December, marking the fourth increase in five months.

Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores declined 1.9% in December, following three consecutive monthly increases.

The 0.4% decrease at general merchandise stores, which includes department stores, nearly offset the increase in November.

Sales down in seven provinces

Retail sales decreased in seven provinces in December. The largest contributor to the national decline was British Columbia (-2.2%), where sales fell for first time since July. Lower new motor vehicle sales were a significant contributor to the decline.

Note to readers

All the 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 estimates. With the release of data in April, seasonally adjusted monthly figures for 2010 will be revised to equal the sum of the unadjusted estimates.

Sales were lower in all Atlantic provinces. The largest decline was in New Brunswick (-2.9%). This decrease did not offset the increase in November.

Retail sales increased in Quebec (+0.8%) and Alberta (+0.5%) while they were flat in Ontario.

Widespread growth in 2010

On an annual basis, retail sales in current dollars rose 5.1% between 2009 and 2010, with 10 of the 11 subsectors advancing. This growth was led by motor vehicle and parts dealers, where sales rose 7.8%. Gasoline station sales grew by 14.2%, reflecting price and volume increases. General merchandisers, which include department stores, posted a 4.4% sales gain.

Retail sales in volume rose 4.5% in 2010.

Higher sales were reported in all provinces. Alberta registered the largest gain with a 5.7% increase.

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.

For information on related indicators, refer to the Latest statistics page on our website.

Available on CANSIM: tables 080-0020 and 080-0021.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 2406 and 2408.

The December 2010 issue of Retail Trade (63-005-X, free) will be available shortly.

Data on retail trade for January will be released on March 22.

For more information, or to order data, contact Client Services (613-951-3549; toll-free 1-877-421-3067; For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jake W. Purdy (613-951-0984), Distributive Trades Division.