Canadian retail sales decreased unexpectedly in February for the first time since July 2011, due to a sharp fall in sales of new cars in seven months, according to the data released by Statistics Canada.

Retail sales were down 0.2% to C$38.9bn ($39.26bn) in February, following an increase of 0.5% in the previous month, while February sales dropped 0.6% in volume terms.

The agency said lower sales were reported in five of 11 subsectors, representing 57% of total retail sales.

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers declined 2.4% in the month, partially offsetting the rise in January 2012.

The ‘other motor vehicle dealers’ industry recorded a 3.5% fall in sales, showing a decline for a fourth month in a row.

Sales increased 1.3% at automotive parts, accessories and tire stores, and grew 0.4% at used car dealers in February 2012.

Food and beverage stores sales fell 0.2%, registering a second consecutive monthly decline, while sales were down in all industries within this subsector.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store receipts edged down 1%, recording a fall for a third month in a row, and reflecting lower sales at sporting goods stores.

Following three consecutive monthly declines, sales at gasoline stations were up 1.7% in February 2012, reflecting higher prices at the pump.

Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers increased 2.2%, partially offsetting January’s decrease.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores sales were up 1.3% in February, a fifth consecutive month of growth, reflecting higher sales at clothing stores.

General merchandise store sales rose 0.5% in February, while sales in the ‘other general merchandise stores’ industry advanced 1.1%, increasing for a fifth time in six months.

Retail sales fell in six Canadian provinces in February 2012, with Ontario reporting the largest decline to 0.9%.

Sales in Alberta decreased 0.6% in February, while Quebec retailers registered a 0.7% rise in sales, a fifth increase in six months.

Retail sales in British Columbia were up 0.4%, recording a second consecutive month of increase.