September retail sales show largest decline since 1998

by Canadian Shipper

Retail sales dropped 1.7% in September to $23.7 billion, the largest monthly decline in sales since January 1998, when an ice storm disrupted retail sales in parts of Central and Eastern Canada.

In the United States, retail sales dropped 2.2% in September.

September’s decline in Canada is partly related to the events of September 11, but also to weaker sales seen since April, reports Statistics Canada. Retail sales remained essentially unchanged between April and August. Previously, retailers saw a period of strong sales increases that began in December 2000. In 2000, retail sales advanced for most of the first half of the year, but flattened out in the second half.

In constant dollars, retail sales tumbled 2.3% in September, after remaining flat in the previous five months.

Spending cutbacks pushed down sales in all retail sectors in September, except for a modest increase in food stores (+0.2%). Retailers in the general merchandise (-3.2%), other retail (-2.8%), automotive (-2.3%) and clothing (-1.9%) sectors posted the largest sales declines. The other retail category includes stores such as liquor, sporting goods, hardware and bookstores. Decreases were less dramatic in furniture stores and drug stores, where sales declines were limited to 0.6%.

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