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Euro zone retail sales in record rebound in May as lockdowns eased

Consumers in the euro zone returned en masse to shops in May as lockdowns were eased, estimates from the EU statistics agency showed today, signalling a sharp recovery of sales after record drops in March and April. 

Sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro zone rose by 17.8% in May from April, Eurostat said, in the steepest increase since euro zone records for retail sales began in 1999. 

The rise was higher than market expectations of a 15% rise on the month. 

But compared to a year earlier, sales were still down 5.1% in May, showing the recovery is far from complete. 

But the year-on-year drop was less steep than the 7.5% fall forecast by economists polled by Reuters. 

The month-on-month rise in May partly offset the record falls posted in the previous two months, with the volume of retail trade dropping by a record 12.1% in April and by 10.6% in March, Eurostat’s revised data showed today. 

The agency had previously estimated a 11.7% month-on-month fall in April.

Sales of clothes and footwear, the sector most hit by reduced trade during the pandemic, posted a 147% increase in May from April, although they were still down 50.5% year-on-year. 

Shoppers also increased by 38.4% their purchases of fuel for cars. Trade of electrical goods and furniture shot up by 37.9%. Books and computer equipment posted a 26.8% rise in sales. 

Online sales kept growing by 7% in May. They were the only retail sub-sector in the euro zone that did not suffer any drop in trade during lockdowns. 

Among the largest euro zone countries, retail sales went up by 13.9% in Germany and by 25.6% in France. May data for Italy were not available.

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