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Retail

Weak Christmas sales weigh on German retail revenue in 2013

Unexpectedly weak business in the Christmas season has worsened German retailers’ woes as the sector was able to carve out just meager growth in 2013. But the industry’s lobbyists are talking up the prospects for 2014.

Retail sales in Germany edged up by just 0.1 percent in 2013 compared with 2012, the German statistics office, Destatis, announced on Friday.

As in previous years, business was especially strong in the online and mail order segment, which grew 6 percent in inflation-adjusted figures, Destatis said.

Other retail sectors, however, were hit by stagnating growth or even declining sales, the statistics showed. Sales of furniture, household appliances and DIY goods were the worst performers slumping by 2.9 percent. In addition, grocery stores and supermarkets sold only 0.8 percent more than in 2012.

According to Destatis data, retail sales were unexpectedly weak in December dropping a staggering 2.5 percent, inflation-adjusted, from November. Analysts polled by the Reuters news agency had predicted an increase in revenue by at least 0.2 percent, citing buoyant consumer confidence and rising wages in Europe's biggest economy.

However, one shouldn't read too much into one-month data, said Newedge Strategy analysts Annalisa Piazza.

“We rule out that the data are the harbinger of a period of falling personal consumption, but we need to consider some downside risks to GDP growth,” she told Reuters.

Nevertheless, German retail sector lobby group HDE on Friday maintained its positive outlook for growth this year, announcing that it expected 1.5 percent higher sales for the year. With an accelerating recovery, rising wages and consumer confidence at a seven-year high, conditions couldn't be any better, HDE Chief Executive Stefan Genth told a news conference.

uhe/pfd (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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