The stores recover the pulse in April, but the sector does not come back

Retail sales rose 3.3% compared to a year ago, but food sales fell due to price increases

Edurne Martinez

Sales in stores (retail trade) rose slightly in April by 3.3% compared to a year ago, according to figures published this Friday by the INE. This is very good news for a sector that continues to be weighed down by the pandemic, now with the added problem of the rise in the cost of raw materials and energy due to the war in Ukraine, and that had not managed to recover in 2021 what was lost in 2020.

In addition, the data for April means adding 8.8 points to that registered in March, thus returning to positive year-on-year rates after that month they plummeted 5.5%, their biggest drop in more than a year.

And employment also performed well in the sector, with an increase in employment of 2.3% in April compared to the figure for the same month in 2021, although two tenths below that of March. Employment in retail trade has already accumulated a consecutive year of year-on-year increases, largely due to the poor development of 2021.

But the data hides an evolution of the sector that is worse than it seems. Breaking down the figures, if the rate without service stations is taken into account, the advance for April is only 0.7% compared to a year ago. In fact, by products, the food sector fell 1.5% compared to sales in April 2021.

This is mainly due to rising food prices, which are leading consumers to look more cautiously at their purchases and take only what is essential. A NielsenIQ report reveals that 73% of food prices rose by more than 5% in April, highlighting the case of oil, which costs 75% more than a year ago. In other words, a liter of oil had an average price in April 2021 of 2.34 euros, while now the average is 4.11 euros. This rise has reduced demand by 32% of the volume sold.

By distribution modes, there have been decreases in the sales of single-stored companies (-1.9%) and in large chains (-1.1%), while small chains (+7.2%) and large surfaces (+6.1%) have experienced an improvement.

On the other hand, the monthly evolution (April over March) shows a rise of 5.3%, almost ten points below the fall in March. Of course, by eliminating service stations the rate becomes 4.1% and food products plummet 4.2%.

In the textile sector the situation is very complicated. Sales hit lows in 2021, falling more than in the midst of the pandemic and confinement of 2020. During the recent presentation of the annual report, the president of the Acotex employers' association, Eduardo Zamácola, ruled out a full recovery until at least 2023. In his words, the sector “has bottomed out”.

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