Retail trade, December 2012

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Following five consecutive monthly gains, retail sales declined 2.1% to $38.6 billion in December. Excluding sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales decreased 0.9%.

In volume terms, sales declined 1.6%.

Chart 1 
Retail sales decrease in December
Chart 1: Retail sales decrease in December

Chart description: Retail sales decrease in December

CSV version of chart 1

Lower sales were reported in 7 of 11 subsectors, representing 58% of total retail trade.

Sales declines at new car dealers accounted for most of the decrease at motor vehicle and parts dealers (-6.4%). The 7.7% drop in sales at new car dealers more than offset the previous six months of gains. Lower sales were also reported by automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (-1.8%) and other motor vehicle dealers (-1.4%).

Weaker holiday sales

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

General merchandise store receipts declined 3.7% in December. Store closures contributed to lower sales at department stores (-9.6%). Sales at 'other general merchandise stores' rose 1.1%.

Following a double-digit gain in November, sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 12.1% in December. Sales in this subsector can be affected by the timing of new product releases.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales declined 1.8%, more than offsetting the increase in November.

Furniture and home furnishings store sales decreased 1.3%. Declines at both furniture stores (-1.0%) and home furnishings stores (-1.6%) did not offset the gains in November.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 0.4%, a third increase in four months.

Sales down in all provinces

Retail sales were down in all provinces in December.

Ontario (-2.4%) reported the largest decrease in dollar terms, with widespread declines across store types. This decrease more than offset the gains of the previous two months.

Retail sales in Quebec (-2.5%) declined for the fourth time in five months.

Alberta (-2.5%) registered a second consecutive sales decrease following four months of growth.

Nova Scotia reported the largest decrease among the Atlantic provinces, down 1.8%.

Motor vehicles lead retail growth in 2012

On an annual basis, retailers sold $467.8 billion worth of goods and services in 2012, up 2.5% from 2011. Sales growth in 2012 slowed compared with gains of 4.1% in 2011 and 5.6% in 2010. Retail sales in volume terms rose 1.6% in 2012.

About half of the growth in retail sales in 2012 came from a 5.6% advance at motor vehicle and parts dealers. According to the New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey, most of the growth came from sales of passenger cars.

Receipts at general merchandise stores increased 3.8% on the strength of the 'other general merchandise stores' category.

Gasoline station sales rose 2.4% in 2012, mainly as a result of higher prices.

Electronics and appliance stores posted a 5.7% decline in 2012, more than offsetting the sales increase registered in 2011.

Retail sales rose in nine provinces. The largest contributors to the growth were Alberta and Ontario. New Brunswick was the lone province to register a sales decline in 2012.

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 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. In November 2012, the Consumer Price Index changed the timing for the introduction of new model year vehicles into the purchase of passenger vehicles index.

It is possible to consult tables of unadjusted data by industry and by province and territory in the Tables by subject module of our website.

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

Available in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table080-0020 and CANSIM table080-0024.

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

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

Data on retail trade for January will be released on March 21.

For more information or to order data, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136;

For analytical information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Ashley Ker (613-951-2252;, Distributive Trades Division.