Eurozone retail sales fell more than expected in April, dragged down by a decline in sales of non-food products, but were still much higher than 12 months earlier when most countries were under strict pandemic lockdowns, data from Eurostat has revealed.
The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro fell 3.1% month-on-month in April but were 23.9% higher than a year earlier.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected only a 1.2% monthly fall and forecast a 25.5% year-on-year surge.
Eurostat said sales of non-food products, excluding fuel for cars, plunged 5.1% on the month though were 42.6% higher than in April 2020.
Sales of automotive fuel were 0.4% higher on the month and a massive 65.5% higher year-on-year.
Retail sales are seen as a proxy indicator for consumer demand. That is, in turn, key for trends in inflation, which the European Central Bank wants to keep below but close to 2% over the medium term.
It already reached 2% in May and is likely to move higher, even if only temporarily, this year.
Among the member states for which data are available, the largest monthly decreases in total retail trade were registered in Slovenia (-10.4%), Denmark (-8.6%) and France (-6.0%).
The highest increases were observed in Portugal (+4.3%), Latvia (+3.8%) and Lithuania (+3.7%).
On a year-on-year basis, the volume of retail sales increased in all member states for which data are available, with the highest annual increases witnessed in Luxembourg (+46.1%), France (+42.1%) and Romania (+41.7%).
In March, Eurozone retail sales rose more than expected, pointing to pent-up consumer demand as pandemic lockdowns ease. Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro jumped 2.7% month-on-month in this period, for a 12.0% year-on-year surge.
In February 2021, the retail trade volume increased by 4.2% in the euro area and by 3.8% in the EU.