Retail sales fell 2.4 per cent in November to $34.9 billion, the largest monthly decline since January 1998.
Statistics Canada reports the November decline was fuelled largely by lower sales at gasoline stations and a drop in unit sales at new car dealers. Excluding the automotive sector - which includes new, used and recreational vehicle and parts dealers as well as gasoline stations - retail sales were flat.
Retail sales by volume fell 0.6 per cent.
The agency says the value of November sales was pulled down considerably by a 7.1 per cent decline in automotive sector sales.
A 14.9 per cent sales drop at gasoline stations, the largest monthly decline since September 2006, was all price-induced as gasoline prices at the pump fell considerably from October.
StatsCan says the lower unit sales of new motor vehicles were behind a 3.4 per cent sales decline at new car dealers in November.
Aside from the automotive sector, four other retail sectors registered lower sales while the remaining three reported increases.
The miscellaneous retailers sector endured the second-largest decline in November - a 0.7 slip - while sales in general merchandise stores decreased 0.5 per cent, their second drop in nine months.
The largest increases were in the pharmacies and personal-care stores sector, and the food-and-beverage stores sector, where sales rose by 0.5 per cent in each sector.
Lower gasoline prices and a decline in sales at new car dealers led to a drop in sales in all provinces in November. With the exception of Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, the decline in retail sales was at least one per cent.