German January retail sales steady versus December; 3.4 percent lower y-o-y

By George Frey, AP
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

German January retail sales steady versus December

FRANKFURT — German retail sales levels for January held steady versus December, though fell 3.4 percent compared with January 2009 levels, the Federal Statistical Office said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the office said Germans’ average gross pay level fell in 2009 — the first time in 61 years.

The Wiesbaden-based office said food, beverages and tobacco sales are 2.3 percent lower compared with January 2009, while nonfood retail sales fell nearly 4 percent compared with January a year ago.

The Statistical office said that online and mail order sales reported the steepest 10.6 percent decline compared with January 2009, while assorted product retail, including department stores, reported a near 8 percent decline in sales for the month.

The declines are partly attributable to 25 sales days compared with 26 in January 2009.

Despite the lower numbers, the results could have been worse, given the harsh winter weather during January, Alexander Koch, an economist at UniCredit said in a research note, predicting that February’s retail sales won’t be positive either.

“Considering the cold and snowy winter weather the outcome was clearly better than expected. After today’s release of stagnation in retail sales month-on-month in January — most likely still supported by solid late Christmas holiday shopping — the February figures will probably bring a substantial decline.”

Germany experienced one of the harshest winters in history, with record snowfalls and freezing temperatures.

In a separate report, the Statistical Office said gross earnings of all employees in Germany fell 0.4 percent to an average of around €27,600 ($37,000) — the first decline in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, which was founded 61 years ago.

The office said employees earned an average of €27,751 in 2009 which was mostly a result of the use of short-time work. German companies often respond to lower demand by cutting back hours and pay.

Many Germans were also laid off, lost their jobs or had to accept pay cuts over the last year as the downturn cut demand for goods and services in Europe’s largest economy.

Last week, Germany’s Federal Labor Agency said the February jobless rate rose slightly to 8.7 percent compared with January, or to more than 3.6 million unemployed people.

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