Eurozone retailers experienced a poor month of December, according to the Bloomberg Eurozone Retail Purchasing Managers' Index. The index was little-changed in December from the previous month's 45.9, at 46.0. That was the third-lowest figure in the survey's four-year history and signaled a decline in euro area retail sales for the third successive month.
Anecdotal evidence provided by survey respondents in December suggested that consumer confidence remained low despite increased marketing efforts by retailers to attract shoppers. Worries about a wider economic slowdown and uncertainty in the financial markets heading into the New Year were highlighted across the three largest Eurozone countries, while retailers in France also pointed to current social unrest (including strikes) as having had a negative impact on sales. Retailers also mentioned specific concerns about inflationary pressures and the subsequent effect on consumer spending patterns -- fuel and energy prices were often singled out.
Germany again saw the steepest rate of decline of the three countries. Retail sales fell for the third month running, albeit at a slightly slower rate than in November (the index picked up to 44.0 from November's three-and-a-half year low of 43.6).
Italy also posted a sharp monthly contraction in retail sales, at a rate that was the second-fastest of the current ten-month period of decline. The index moved lower to 44.7, from 45.3.
Sales fell in France for the third consecutive month, though the rate of contraction was marginal and weaker than in both October and November. The index posted 49.1, up from 48.8 in the previous month.Eurozone retail sales were also down in December compared to one year earlier. Moreover, the annual rate of decline in sales was stronger than in the previous two months. The index of yearly sales posted 46.8, below its four-year long-run average of 48.6.
Sales were substantially weaker than levels seen twelve months' ago in both Germany and Italy, with the latter posting the slightly steeper decline. In contrast, annual sales registered further strong growth in France. Sales rose sharply in food and drink and pharmaceuticals, with retailers in the former sector posting the stronger average gains. However, sales in clothing and footwear, household goods, and autos and fuel were well down from one year earlier.