OTTAWA, Ont. — Canadian retail sales plummeted 5.4% in December, marking the largest monthly decline in more than 15 years, Statistics Canada has reported.
The drop even eclipsed the 4.5% decline in January, 1998 when an ice storm crippled much of Canada, StatsCan pointed out. Retail sales in December were at their lowest levels since November, 2006.
The automotive sector was largely to blame, accounting for about 75% of the retail decline in December. Auto sector sales were down 12.7% in December and new car sales were down 15.1%.
Building and outdoor home supplies stores were also hit hard, experiencing a 5.6% drop in sales.
Truckers used to be able to count on the months leading up to Christmas to provide a surge of retail shipments. However, even sales of clothing and accessories were down 3.7% in December, according to StatsCan. Sales at furniture, home furnishings and electronics stores dropped more than 2%.
No province went unscathed, with each province experiencing a decline of at least 3% in December. Alberta was hit hardest, with a drop of 6.2%.
For 2008 as a whole, retail sales increased 3.2% to $425.3 billion, following gains of 5.8% in 07 and 6.4% in 06.
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