OTTAWA — Canadian retail sales fell in December after the growing popularity of Black Friday sales in advance of the holiday season boosted results in November.
“The drop was no big surprise, given the clear tendency in recent years for December sales to decline — even though the figures are seasonally adjusted,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter wrote in a report.
“What the rising importance of Black Friday giveth to sales in November, it taketh away from December.”
Statistics Canada said Thursday retail sales fell 0.8 per cent in December to $49.6 billion.
The increase came as gains in new car sales were more than offset by lower sales at electronics and appliance stores and general merchandise retailers. Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales dropped 1.8 per cent.
Economists had expected an overall increase of 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent, excluding autos, according to Thomson Reuters.
CIBC economist Andrew Grantham noted that part of the disappointment reflected shifting seasonality with the growing prominence of Black Friday sales in November.
“That is something the seasonal factors and consensus expectations haven’t caught onto yet,” Grantham wrote.
“However, averaging November and December together, sales were slightly lower over the period, and the December result will still weigh on expectations for monthly GDP and Bank of Canada policy tightening.”
Overall sales fell in six of 11 subsectors, while retail sales in volume terms fell 0.8 per cent in December.
Electronics and appliance stores were down 9.1 per cent in the month following a 12.7 per cent increase in November when sales were boosted by Black Friday sales and new product releases.
Sales at general merchandise stores fell 5.3 per cent in December, while health and personal care stores dropped 3.8 per cent.
Meanwhile, motor vehicle and parts dealers posted a 2.1 per cent increase in December, boosted by a 2.9 per cent increase at new car dealers.
For all of 2017, retail sales increased 6.7 per cent to reach $588 billion, the highest annual growth rate since 1997.
Statistics Canada said the increase was partially attributable to higher prices, as sales in volume terms grew 5.4 per cent.
Internet-based sales from both store and non-store retailers climbed 31 per cent to $15.7 billion in 2017.
Retail e-commerce was 2.6 per cent of total retail sales last year, compared with 2.1 per cent in 2016.
Craig Wong, The Canadian Press