Retail sales posts largest decline in December


Retail sales posted their largest decline since the low of April driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing 3.4% to $53.4 billion in December, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Sales were down in 9 out of 11 subsectors, representing 83.6% of retail sales.

Core retail sales—which exclude sales by gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—also posted their slowest growth since April, falling 4.6% in December on lower sales at general merchandise stores and clothing and clothing accessories stores, as well as sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. In volume terms, retail sales fell 3.6% in December.

On a quarterly basis, retail sales were up 1.2% in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter of 2020, while retail sales in volume terms increased 0.8%.

With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Canada, provincial governments began to reintroduce physical distancing measures, which directly affected the retail sector. Based on respondent feedback, approximately 15% of retailers were closed during December. The average length of the shutdown was two business days. Despite these challenging times, most respondents reported their sales figures, and Statistics Canada thanks them for their continued collaboration.


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