Retail Sales Post Large Decline

Retail sales posted their largest decline since the low of April driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing 3.4 per cent to $53.4 billion in December, says Statistics Canada. Sales were down in nine out of 11 subsectors, representing 83.6 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent in December. 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 per cent of retailers were closed during December. The average length of the shutdown was two business days. Sales decreased in every province in December, led by Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba.