UPDATE 1-Canada Dec retail sales hammered on gasoline, Nov shift

Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:44am EST
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(Adds details and analysis of Black Friday effect)

OTTAWA Feb 20 (Reuters) - Canadian retail sales in December took their largest fall in four years, in part because of cheaper gasoline and an apparent shift of purchases to Black Friday in November, according to Statistics Canada data released on Friday.

The 2.0 percent fall in sales more than wiped out the 0.4 percent gain in November and dwarfed the forecast decline of 0.4 percent. It was the biggest drop since April 2010.

"After removing the effects of price changes, particularly lower gas prices, sales in volume terms declined 1.3 percent," the federal agency said.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales were down 2.3 percent, the largest drop since December 2008.

The figures are adjusted for seasonal factors, but because the Black Friday rush in the aftermath of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is a relatively new phenomenon in Canada, Statistics Canada's model is not yet adjusting for it. The agency requires four years of changed data before it recognizes a seasonal variation, and Canada's Black Friday sales are only about three years old.

Most products typically associated with Christmas shopping registered weaker sales in December. Yet December's decline appeared to constitute more than a shift in holiday shopping to November. Electronic sales, for example, declined 9.2 percent in December after a rise of only 3.9 percent in November. Clothing and accessories fell 5.6 percent after a 4.9 percent increase in November.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer)