* Canada's 1.6 pct growth lagged 2.4 pct growth in U.S.
* Online sales jump 26 percent
TORONTO Jan 16 Canadian retail sales grew by a
tepid 1.6 percent in December, lagging even the disappointing
gains posted in the United States, the month when holiday
shopping peaks, according to data released by MasterCard on
Sales growth north of the border came in at less the half of
the 4.3 percent rate that retailers delivered a year earlier,
according to MasterCard's SpendingPulse, published by the
payment company's research and consulting division.
The figure also fell short of growth in the United States,
where sales rose 2.4 percent in December, capping off what
analysts consider a lackluster holiday shopping season there.
The performance is bad news for Canadian retailers, already
facing rising competition from U.S. chains expanding in Canada,
and bracing themselves for the entry of Target Corp in
the spring. The arrival of the No. 2 U.S. discounter is expected
to shake up the industry across Canada.
In December, MasterCard released data for November that
showed only 1.3 percent sales growth, compared with 4.2 percent
a year earlier.
In early January, Hudson's Bay Co said sales growth
at its established department stores had slowed in the nine
weeks to Dec. 29. But an especially weak performance by the
U.S.-based Lord & Taylor chain in wake of Superstorm Sandy
pulled down the parent's overall result. Sales rose 6.7 percent
at Hudson's established Canadian department stores.
At rival Sears Canada Inc, by contrast, same-store
sales fell 5.8 percent in the nine weeks to Dec. 29. Apparel
retailer Reitmans Canada Ltd showed a 2.4 percent
decline for the same period.
ONLINE SHOPPING SOARS
The news was better in e-commerce, as online sales in Canada
jumped 26 percent. MasterCard said the sector is growing more
quickly than in the United States, where sales rose 12.6
To be sure, online retail has emerged more slowly in Canada.
In some cases, if shoppers want to buy from a major retailer,
they still must order from sellers based in the United States,
contending with higher shipping costs and import duties.
Online sales were still a relatively small part of total
sales, only 6.6 percent, but the segment has now grown more than
20 percent year-over-year for 15 consecutive months.
MasterCard said grocery sales were higher than average,
compared with the month's sales over the last five years. Sales
rose 1.3 percent, following a 1.9 percent gain last year.
Gasoline sales fell 6.7 percent.