Retail sales in Canada were down 5.4 percent in December, the largest monthly decline in more than 15years, Statistics Canada reported Monday.
Sales in all sectors fell to 33 billion Canadian dollars (26.4 billion U. S. dollars), and the decline was largely attributed to sagging sales in the automotive sector, the report said.
Taking away automotive sales, retail sales fell 1.8 percent.
The automotive sector, which includes new, used and recreational vehicle and parts dealers, in addition to gas stations, posted the largest monthly decline in December, with sales tumbling 12.7 percent.
The drop was primarily caused by a 15.1 percent slide in sales at new car dealers, which is the largest monthly decline in the number of new motor vehicles sold since January 1998.
Gas station sales fell 11.7 percent, and have declined 28.8 percent since September 2008, largely because of falling fuel prices.
Retail sectors that are traditionally associated with holiday shopping also posted sales declines in December, according to the report.
Clothing and accessories sales fell 3.7 percent.
Sales at furniture, home and electronics stores, as well as at sporting good and book stores, dropped 2 percent.
General merchandise stores experienced a modest 0.4 percent decline in sales.
But overall, retail sales increased in 2008, although the rate was lower than gains posted in 2007 and 2006.
Sales rose 3.2 percent to 425.3 billion Canadian dollars (340.2 billion U. S. dollars) in 2008, while sales went up 5.8 percent in2007 and 6.4 percent in 2006.