To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, EU Member States have taken a wide variety of restrictive measures. Among other limitations, non-essential retail shops have closed, affecting the retail trade volumes.
In March 2020, EU’s volume of retail trade fell by 10% compared with February 2020. For a comparison, the retail volume increased on average by 0.3% in March 2010 to 2019.
Spotlight on the effects across the EU
Since the COVID-19 containment measures differed between the EU Member States as to their timing and strictness, the effects on retail trade also vary.
In March 2020, retail trade of food products (incl. beverages and tobacco) increased substantially compared with the average March growth rates of the last decade. Among EU Member States, highest increases were observed in Luxembourg (+20%), Ireland (+14%) and Belgium (+13%).
In contrast, purchases of non-food products (excl. automotive fuel) dropped in all EU Member States, with highest decreases observed in Luxembourg (-35%), France and Spain (both -33.0%). The reduction in retail volume was particularly strong for textiles, with the sales reduced by half or more in a vast majority of EU Member States.
Supermarkets recorded increases in sales, department stores decreases
Around mid-March 2020, many countries closed non-essential stores, whilst groceries, supermarkets and pharmacies could remain open. This had a clear effect on the retail trade volumes of various distribution channels.
Sales in supermarkets generally increased, even in countries that experienced the strongest declines in sales activities such as Bulgaria (-18% in total and 2% in supermarkets), Spain (-14% in total and 11% in supermarkets) and Portugal (-12% in total and 3% in supermarkets).
In contrast, sales in department stores, which were mostly closed after mid-March, significantly dropped across the EU. The largest drops were registered in Belgium (-60%), Spain (-39%), Lithuania (-36%) and Germany (-30%).
The development of internet sales was relatively heterogeneous but the sales via this channel also increased in many EU Member States.
Note: The European Union (EU) includes 27 EU Member States. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Further information is published here.
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