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Retail

German retail sales boom as shoppers stockpile for coronavirus

People enter a shop with the #stayhome slogan as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Dresden, Germany, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel

BERLIN (Reuters) - German households stocking up on daily essentials ahead of anticipated lock-down and quarantine measures caused retail sales in Germany to surge far beyond expectations in February, official data showed on Wednesday.

On the year, retail sales jumped 6.4% on an adjusted basis, far outstripping the expectations of analysts, who had forecast an increase of just 1.5%. On the month, sales rose by 1.2%.

The spike in demand by households preparing for restrictions on going out and possible quarantine has already seen Germany-wide shortages of toilet roll and introduced the world to “hamster shopping”, the German phrase for panic-buying.

Sales rose across the board, the German Statistical Office said, but growth was particularly strong in food, drinks and tobacco, where revenues were 7.8% higher than in February 2019. Supermarkets were the main beneficiaries, with revenues up 8.3%, compared to specialist retailers’ growth of 3.5%.

The retail figures are a rare chink of light for Europe’s largest economy, which has been hit by the coronavirus epidemic and is expected to fall into recession this year.

Non-food sales also rose sharply, up 5.6% compared to February last year in real terms. Online and delivery services saw particularly strong growth, with revenues up 11% compared to the year before.

Pharmacies and cosmetics retailers also saw sales rise by 6.6%.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Joseph Nasr

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