December no longer peak shopping season? Retail sales slip for the month

December isn't what it used to be for retail sales in Canada. Britt Erlanson / Getty Images

Statistics Canada says retail sales fell 0.8 per cent in December to $49.6 billion as gains in new car sales were more than offset by lower sales at electronics and appliance stores and general merchandise retailers.

READ MORE: 2017 was a terrible year for Canadian retailers – and 2018 could be even worse

The numbers may be an indication that many Canadians are now getting the bulk of their holiday shopping done in November, when they can take advantage of Black Friday sales.

“December isn’t what it used to be for retail sales, and that showed up in the 2017 figures,” CIBC economist Nick Exarhos wrote in a research note. “A change in seasonality towards an early holiday shopping pattern with the advent of Black Friday sales and the like explain part of the weakness,” he added.

READ MORE: You might think most Canadian shopping happens online. You’d be wrong: B.C. analyst

Sales at general merchandise stores fell 5.3 per cent in December, while health and personal care stores dropped 3.8 per cent. 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.

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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.

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.

– With a file from Global News national online reporter Erica Alini 

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