According to estimates by the agency, the volume of retail sales already rose by 20.3 percent in the eurozone in May and by 18.3 percent in the European Union. This would mean that the volume of retail trade in both areas has now returned to February 2020 levels, before all measures due to Covid-19 went into effect and shops had to close. May and June were months when rules eased, retails were allowed to reopen and consumers may be catching up and buying more. But how reliable are these figures and is retail really returning to pre-crisis levels or has consumer confidence been damaged?
Retail in the European Union is back to pre-Corona crisis levels
According to Eurostat, the retail sales index rose by 1.3 percent in both areas, both in the eurozone and in the European Union, in June 2020, compared to June 2019. A note to the figures can be made by looking at which sectors in retail especially attracted and which less. In the eurozone, for example, the share of retail volume of petrol in particular rose by 20.4 percent in June compared to May. The non-food group, including clothing, increased by 12.1 percent, while food, drink and tobacco decreased by 2.7 percent. In the European Union, the retail volume for petrol increased by 16.9 percent and by 10.6 percent for non-food. Here too, food, drink and tobacco fell by 2.2 percent.
Eurostat also states in the press release that separate data is not available for all member states, which raises questions about how reliable the figures for the countries together are then. Of the countries for which Eurostat does have separate data, we see that the retail volume of Ireland (+21.9 percent), Spain (+16.5 percent) and Italy (+13.8 percent) increased the most in June compared to May, while it fell in Austria (-2.5 percent) and Germany (-1.6 percent).
The research agency also compares June 2020 per product group with June 2019. In the eurozone we see an increase of 3.9 percent for non-food and an increase of 1.2 percent for food, drinks and tobacco, while petrol with 13, 6 percent fell. In the EU, non-food increased by 4.2 percent and food, drink and tobacco by 4.2 percent, while petrol fell by 12.7 percent. Also for this comparison data are not available from all countries, but among the countries for which Eurostat did, Ireland (+10.2 percent), Estonia (+6.6 percent) and Denmark are the biggest risers. In Bulgaria, Malta and Luxembourg, on the other hand, a decline was visible in June 2020 compared to June 2019.
In conclusion, we can therefore say that the Eurostat figures must be viewed critically. Indeed, there is a slightly positive trend in retail volume in both zones in June, but this varies widely by country and by product group, and many of the figures are based on research agency estimates.