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04 Feb 2021 | 10:42

Eurozone retail sales vary wildly amid lockdowns

(Sharecast News) - Eurozone retail sales rose in December but fell short of expectations as trading varied greatly between countries depending on the level of Covid-19 restrictions. Retail sales in the single currency area increased by 2% from November when sales dropped 5.7%, Eurostat reported. On average, analysts had expected a 2.8% increase in December.

The figures cover the pre-Christmas trading period and a month when countries were adjusting their coronavirus restrictions with some loosening constraints after lockdowns and others tightening as infections rose. Retail sales fell 1.7% in the fourth quarter from the quarter before.

Sales in Germany, the eurozone's biggest economy, plunged 9.6% and dropped 10.9% in the Netherlands. In France, the bloc's second-biggest economy, sales rebounded 22.3% after a 15.6% slump in November. Sales rose 11.4% in Ireland and 15.9% in Belgium.

Retail sales fell 1.7% in the fourth quarter from the quarter before.

Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: "This is a decent headline in the wake of the slide in November, though the real story is in the details. They show wild divergence between countries, linked to the difference in timing and severity of the Covid-19 restrictions.

"The Q4 numbers show that even slight differences in timing and severity of restrictions can have a huge difference of sales performance in physical stores."

Vistesen said he did not expect much of a rebound in the first quarter of 2021 with restrictions on non-essential retailers in many eurozone countries.

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