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U.S. Markets

German retail sales tumble in January as lockdown bites

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks leave a supermarket, after the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia decided to make wearing protective masks obligatory in shops and public transportation to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bad Honnef near Bonn, Germany, April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

BERLIN (Reuters) - German retail sales tumbled more than expected in January as the COVID-19 lockdown and the withdrawal of a temporary cut in sales tax hit consumer spending in Europe’s largest economy, data showed on Tuesday.

The Federal Statistics Office said retail sales fell 4.5% on the month in real terms after an upwardly revised decline of 9.1% in December. The January reading undershot a Reuters forecast for a decline of 0.3%.

“This decline can be explained by the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, which meant a closure of many retail stores since Dec. 16, 2020,” the statistics office said.

The end of a temporary sales tax cut may also have contributed as many consumers made big ticket purchases before the end of 2020 to save money.

Fashion retail sales plunged 76.6% year-on-year, while sales of groceries were up 4.3% year-on-year as supermarkets and convenience stores remained open.

Online retailers continued to benefit from shifting consumer habits with sales up 31.7%.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers closed most shops and services in mid-December after a partial lockdown for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues failed to push down infections.

Merkel and state premiers are due to meet again on Wednesday to discuss a gradual easing of lockdown measures that are currently in place until at least March 7.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Andrew Heavens

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