Retail Sales Have First Decrease Since May

Retail sales reached $43.2 billion in December, a decrease of 1.1 per cent compared with the same month a year prior, says Statistics Canada. This marked the first year-over-year decline in sales for the sector since May 2020. Lower sales were reported in 11 of the 19 commodity categories. Canadian retailers saw lacklustre sales from discretionary spending in the month of January, as COVID-19-related closures impeded in-store shopping at most brick-and-mortar retailers. Sales of clothing fell for the 11th consecutive month, down 40.2 per cent from the same month a year prior. Declining sales were also seen for footwear (-36 per cent); home furniture, furnishings, housewares, appliances, and electronics (-3.3 per cent); jewelry and watches, luggage, and briefcases (-35.2 per cent); and publications (-37.8 per cent). Restrictions and closures continued to drive consumers to alternative methods of shopping, with sales at electronic shopping and mail-order houses reaching an all-time high of $7.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020. Electronic shopping and mail-order houses accounted for 4.3 per cent of all retail spending in the fourth quarter of 2020, up 1.2 per cent from a year prior.