Holiday Retail Sales: How Did Canadian Retailers Fare Over the Holidays

Stats on holiday retail sales for December have been released, and the news isn’t what retailers hoped for.

Statistics Canada released its numbers for the holiday season at the end of February, showing retail sales fell by 0.5% in December. For many retailers, these slumping holiday retail sales were somewhat surprising as economists had predicted no change from previous months. December’s falling sales came after four consecutive months of increases.

0.5% is actually a conservative drop when you look at specific sectors. When motor vehicle and parts dealers and gas stations are removed from the equation, retail sales fell by 1.4%. Clothing and clothing accessories experienced the most significant drop – 3.7%. General merchandise sales dropped 1.3% and electronics and appliance store sales decreased by 2.3%.

What’s to blame for such a slump? Did Canadians decide to stop shopping? Not likely. The trend seems to be more likely attributed to Canadians shopping earlier in the year, using big sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get all of their holiday shopping done before the rush. This is not an isolated incident – the last few years have all seen lower holiday retail sales in December, further proof that Canadians are just opting to get the bulk of their shopping done earlier in the season.

Gift cards are also being blamed since these don’t show up in sales figures until they’ve actually been used by the recipient.

Is this a trend that is likely to continue? Economists are optimistic, suggesting these less than positive holiday retail sales are more a product of the above factors, rather than a sign of things to come. It is more likely just a negative bump following a string of positive climbs.

This also isn’t being considered a sign of a flagging Canadian economy, since, as economists are quick to point out, the economy if performing better than predicted just a few short months ago. As a whole, things are looking positive.

If your own holiday retail sales left something to be desired, the best way to bounce back is with a strong retail merchandising strategy to get people into your stores and filling their shopping carts. Staying on track with great customer service is also crucial.

At Marketsupport, we appreciate how hard it can be to harness those ups-and-downs. Instead of seeing them as negative, use the data to your advantage. We can help you do that. Call us today at 1-877-421-5081 or visit

« Back to Blog