UPDATE 1-Greek Nov. retail sales plunge at near-record pace

Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:36am EST

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ATHENS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Greek retail sales continued to
slump at a near-record pace in November, the country's
statistics agency said on Thursday, highlighting the pain
EU/IMF-imposed austerity is inflicting on household consumption.
    The plunge in private consumption has been the biggest
driver of the country's six-year recession, which is expected to
shrink national output (GDP) by about 24 percent in 2008-2013.
    Retail sales by volume fell 16.8 percent year-on-year in
November after an 18.1 percent drop in the previous month,
statistics agency ELSTAT said. Fuel sales dropped by 16 percent
in January-November, footwear and apparel by 21 percent and
supermarket sales by 8.1 percent.
    The retail sector is bearing the brunt of mass unemployment,
soaring taxes and plunging wages - the fallout from Greece's
international bailout. Greeks have slashed spending in response
to a fall in real disposable income of almost a third since
austerity began in 2010.
    Thousands of stores and smaller retail companies have shut
down during the debt crisis, which began in late 2009. Sprider
Stores, a big clothing chain, and furniture retailer
Neoset both filed for bankruptcy protection in recent weeks.
    Foreign firms such as German supermarket chain Aldi and
French multi-media retailer Fnac, which set up shop in Greece to
benefit from a debt-fuelled consumer boom after it joined the
euro in 2001, have already left the country.
    Private consumption accounts for about three quarters of the
Greek economy, the biggest share in any euro area country.
    Economists expect falling consumption to remain a drag on
the economy this year, despite a slight improvement in consumer
confidence after Athens secured more bailout funds in December,
at the price of more austerity.
    "Despite the gradual improvement in confidence over the past
two months, pressure is expected to continue in the first half
of 2013," said Nikos Magginas, an economist with National Bank.
    
    Below is a table with the latest retail sales numbers.
************************************************************
    KEY FIGURES                 NOV     OCT    SEPT    AUG     
    Retail sales*
    by volume (y/y)            -16.8   -18.1   -11.8  -9.3    
    Retail sales*
    by revenue (y/y)           -16.6   -17.1   -10.4  -7.3    
    -----------------------------------------------------
    * Includes fuels and auto lubricants
    source: ELSTAT
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