Analysis — December 2015

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Following a 1.7% rise in November, retail sales fell 2.2% to $43.2 billion in December. Declines were widespread as lower sales were reported in 10 of 11 subsectors, representing 97% of retail trade. Later snowfalls and unseasonably warm weather in many parts of Canada may have contributed to lower seasonal purchases.

In volume terms, retail sales were down 2.3%.

Retail sales decrease in December

Motor vehicle and parts dealers (-3.9%) recorded the largest decrease in dollar terms among subsectors. After two consecutive monthly increases, sales at new car dealers fell 4.1%. Sales at other motor vehicle dealers (-6.7%), which include snowmobile dealers, were down for the third month in a row. Lower sales were also reported at used car dealers (-2.5%). The sole increase in the subsector was reported at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (+1.5%).

Food and beverage stores registered a 1.2% decrease in December. Lower sales at supermarkets and other grocery stores (-1.7%) offset the gain in November. Sales at specialty food stores (+0.6%) continued their upward trend in December, while sales at convenience stores edged up 0.2%. Beer, wine and liquor stores sales were unchanged from November.

Sales at gasoline stations (-1.1%) continued their downward trend in December, recording their sixth straight monthly decrease.

Furniture and home furnishings stores (+0.5%) was the only subsector to increase in December. Higher sales at home furnishings stores (+3.0%) more than offset lower sales at furniture stores (-0.9%).

Weaker holiday sales

Store types typically associated with holiday shopping registered weaker sales in December.

Receipts at general merchandise stores (-2.2%) declined for the second consecutive month.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores (-3.6%) decreased for the first time in three months. Within this subsector, lower receipts at clothing stores (-3.6%) accounted for most of the decline. Shoe stores (-5.4%) and jewellery, luggage and leather goods stores (-1.6%) also posted lower sales in December.

Electronics and appliance stores (-3.0%) posted their fourth decrease in six months

Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores declined 2.3%. Lower sales at sporting goods stores more than offset gains at hobby, toy and games stores, and book stores and news dealers.

Sales down in nine provinces

Retail sales were down in nine provinces in December.

Ontario (-2.3%) reported the largest decrease in dollar terms, offsetting the 2.2% gain in November. Sales were down across most store types.

Receipts in Alberta (-3.1%) decreased for the third time in four months. The decline in December stemmed from weaker sales at new car dealers.

Quebec recorded a 2.1% decrease in retail sales, more than offsetting the gain in November, as lower sales were registered at new car dealers.

Sales decreased 1.4% in British Columbia, as lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers more than offset higher sales at food and beverage stores.

Retail sales in Prince Edward Island edged up 0.1% on the strength of higher sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers.

Summary tables of unadjusted data by industry and by province and territory are now available from the Summary tables module of our website.

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

Note to readers

All data in this release are seasonally adjusted and expressed in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Total retail sales expressed in volume are calculated by deflating current dollar values using consumer price indexes. The retail sales series in chained (2007) dollars is a chained Fisher volume index with 2007 as the reference year. For more information, see Calculation of Volume of Retail Trade Sales.

For information on trend-cycle data, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM tables 080-8020 and 080-8024 will be updated on February 26. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Data on retail trade for January will be released on March 18.

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