French consumer spending unexpectedly stalled in February ahead of a new round of coronavirus restrictions as warm temperatures weighed on energy spending, the INSEE statistics agency said on Wednesday.
Consumer spending was unchanged from January, when it had fallen 4.9% from the previous month, INSEE said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected on average an increase of 2.0% in February.
INSEE said spending on manufactured goods rebounded 3.4% in February due to the postponement and then extension of the winter sales period.
Spending on durable goods rebounded 2.3% in February after a 10.3% decline in January, while clothing and textiles purchases were up 15.8% in February after 28.0% decline in the previous month.
However, the increase was largely neutralised by a 3.1% drop in spending on energy, with milder temperatures at the end of the month, after a relatively cold January. After rising for two months, a 2.2% fall in food spending also weighed.
INSEE's monthly consumer sentiment survey showed on Tuesday that households had largely shrugged off tighter coronavirus restrictions imposed in March, with confidence rising unexpectedly.
In December of last year, consumer spend in the grocery channel rose by 3.7% in France, according to Kantar market share data, with discounter Lidl the strongest performer in the four-week period.
Grocery sales always surge in December, and last year it was even more, due to the re-introduction of lockdown measures – consumers spent €3.20 more on average in P13 2020, while basket sizes were up 10%, data showed.