Euro zone retail sales stronger than expected in August

FILE PHOTO: A salesperson serves a customer at the electronics retailer Media Markt, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Berlin, Germany, April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone retail sales were much stronger than expected in August due to a sharp surge of online purchases and increased clothing sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although July sales were revised downwards, data showed on Monday.

Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro jumped 4.4% month-on-month in August for a 3.7% year-on-year gain, beating economists’ expectations of a 2.4% monthly and a 2.2% annual increase.

But figures for July were revised down to declines of 1.8% month-on-month and 0.1% year-on-year from the previously reported 1.3% drop and 0.4% rise respectively.

The revised numbers showed the pick-up in consumer spending was slower than previously thought in the month when most EU countries had lifted many pandemic-related restrictions.

The August sales jump was mainly a result of a 12.4% monthly and a 23.8% annual surge in mail and internet orders. This reversed a sharp month-on-month drop and was roughly double the year-on-year increase in July.

There was also a 7.7% jump in sales of clothes and shoes against July, although they remained 14.1% below last year’s levels and a 2.4% monthly increase in sales of food, drinks and tobacco, which was also higher than a year earlier by 3.2%.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop