Recent retail sales far weaker than initial estimates, revisions suggest

OTTAWA _ Canadian retail sales during the crucial holiday shopping season were far lower than previously projected as consumers appeared to pull back on spending.

Statistics Canada has released revised estimates for its retail-trade figures _ and they are considerably weaker when compared to the initial readings published by the federal agency.

The agency now estimates retail sales for November contracted 1.1 per cent compared to the previous month, which is a downward revision from its previous figure of 0.5 per cent growth.

For December, the agency now says retail trade likely fell 1.2 per cent, which is deeper than its previous estimate of just a 0.7 per cent contraction.

The report says retail sales grew by only 0.1 per cent in January, compared to the initial estimate of a 0.3 per cent expansion.

Statistics Canada also released its monthly number for February, when it estimates retail sales increased 0.4 per cent to $49.8 billion _ with the biggest increases coming from new car dealers and general merchandise stores.