Slow car sales drag down retail in January, but there’s strength under the hood

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Statistics Canada says retail sales fell 0.3 per cent to $67 billion in January as sales at new car dealers dropped.

Overall retail sales were down in three of nine subsectors as sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 2.4 per cent, the group’s first decline in five months. Sales at new car dealers fell 3.0 per cent, while used car dealers gained 4.5 per cent.

The agency says core retail sales — which exclude gas stations and fuel vendors, and motor vehicle and parts dealers — rose 0.4 per cent in the first month of 2024.

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The increase in core retail sales came in part from higher sales at sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, book, and miscellaneous retailers which saw a 3.0 per cent increase.

In volume terms, retail sales rose 0.2 per cent in January.

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Looking ahead, Statistics Canada says its advance estimate of retail sales for February suggests sales increased 0.1 per cent for the month, though it cautioned the figure would be revised.

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