BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone retail sales fell at a new record pace in April, but not as steeply as expected, as shopping declined for nearly all items, including food and drink, during a full month of coronavirus lockdowns across the bloc.
Sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro zone fell by 11.7% in April from March and by 19.6% year-on-year, EU statistics agency Eurostat said on Thursday.
That compared with market expectations of 15.0% and 22.3% declines respectively, according to a Reuters poll of economists.
The month-on-month decline was the steepest in Eurostat data going back to 1999, going beyond the previous record from March of -11.1%.
The year-on-year change, which before March had not been negative since the end of 2013, was the worst on record in data reaching back to 2000. It was also four times the size of the decline in February 2009, the worst month of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The only brighter spot was a sharp 10.9% month-on-month rise in mail order and internet shopping.
Even sales of food, drinks and tobacco and of pharmaceuticals and medical goods were down, although the former set was up year-on-year after large-scale stockpiling in March.
The sharpest sales declines were for automotive fuel and for clothing, footwear and textiles.
The steepest month-on-month falls by country were in Malta and Ireland, the latter after a slight increase in March. Compared with the previous year, the biggest drops were in France and Spain. There was no April data for Cyprus, Greece and Italy.
Finland was the only country to register an increase, with sales going up 0.3% from March.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Francesco Guarascio)