BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Retail sales growth in the 19 countries sharing the euro currency slowed sharply in March, European statistics agency Eurostat said on Friday, as consumers spent less on non-food items than in February.
Retail sales, an often revised indicator, rose by just 0.1 percent in March for a 0.8 percent annual increase, Eurostat said. That compared with expansion of 0.3 percent in the month and 1.8 percent year-on-year in February.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.5 percent month-on-month and an annual increase of 1.9 percent.
While their volatile nature makes retail sales an unreliable indicator, the drop is in line with a slight cooling of the euro zone economy, as underlined by slowing economic growth in the first quarter of 2018.
The slowdown in retail sales was mainly due to a decline in spending on non-food items, especially clothing and pharmaceutical goods.
Spending on food and drink increased slightly, while mail order and online shopping showed a growth of 3.3 percent from February.
On a country-by-country basis, retail sales fell most in Ireland and Germany, while Latvia, Portugal and Austria showed a sharp increases during March.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop