Retail trade, May 2012

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Retail sales rose 0.3% to $38.9 billion in May. Gains were reported in 6 of 11 subsectors, representing 53% of retail trade. Overall, retail sales have been relatively flat since November 2011.

In volume terms, retail sales rose 0.7%.

Chart 1 
Retail sales rise in May
Chart 1: Retail sales rise in May

Chart description: Retail sales rise in May

CSV version of the chart

Food and beverage store receipts rose 1.6% in May. Supermarkets and other grocery stores (+1.8%) led the sales increase, the first rise in five months. Sales in this store type have been relatively flat since the beginning of 2011, as general merchandise stores have continued to gain market share in food sales.

Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.8%, partially reflecting stronger sales of food. A 0.7% rise in sales at department stores did not offset April's decline. The "other general merchandise stores" industry (+0.8%) advanced for a seventh consecutive month.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores reported a 1.6% gain in May. Higher sales at clothing stores accounted for most of the increase, advancing for a seventh time in eight months.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales rose 1.9%, partially offsetting the decrease in April.

Sales at gasoline stations declined 1.4% in May, reflecting lower prices at the pump.

Motor vehicle and parts dealers registered a 0.4% decrease. Lower sales at new car dealers (-0.2%) and automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (-2.2%) accounted for most of the decline.

Sales at new car dealers were down for a third time in four months. Despite recent declines, year-to-date sales in 2012 for this industry were 9.5% above the same period in 2011.

Electronics and appliance store sales declined 0.8% in May. Sales in this subsector have been on a downward trend since the end of 2011.

Sales increase most in Alberta

Retail sales rose in six provinces in May. Alberta (+1.3%) reported the largest increase in dollar terms, with widespread gains across store types. This was the seventh monthly sales gain in 10 months for this province.

The 0.2% rise in sales in Ontario did not offset the 1.1% decline in April.

Continuing an upward trend, retail sales in Saskatchewan (+2.0%) registered a fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Quebec (-0.4%) and New Brunswick (-1.3%) both reported a fourth decline in five months.

Note to readers

All the data in this release are seasonally adjusted and in current dollars, unless otherwise noted. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

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.

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 without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table080-0020 and CANSIM table080-0021.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers survey number2406 and survey number2408.

The May 2012 issue of Retail Trade (Catalogue number63-005-X, free) will soon be available.

Data on retail trade for June will be released on August 22.

For more information or to order data, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;

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.