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Retail sales in Hungary grew by 4.4 percent in March from the same month a year earlier, slowing from a 10.9 percent increase in February as consumers filled their pantries but spent less on other purchases, data released by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) on Wednesday show.

Retail sales rose by 3.5 percent, adjusted for calendar-year effects. Adjusted food sales were up 12.7 percent and non-food sales edged up 0.5 percent. Vehicle fuel sales dropped by 16.7 percent.

The Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM), commenting on the data, said the economic fallout of the epidemic and emergency measures showed up across the board in various ways, both positive and negative. Whereas total retail sales exceeded 1,000 billion forints (EUR 2.8bn) in the previous month, April is expected to decline drastically, the ministry said in a statement.

Robust Retail Growth in January Partly due to Coronavirus Stockpiling

Normally, turnover is more evenly distributed among the sub-sectors, the ministry noted. In March, however, around half was produced by food-related businesses while non-food retail accounted for just over a third.

Consumers tended to opt for daily consumer goods, it noted. Pharmacies saw turnover rise by 38 percent, general food shops by 15 percent, while textiles, clothing and footwear declined by 51 percent. Trade in books, computers and other manufactured goods also took a big hit.

Parcel and internet retail did roaring business, however, the ministry noted.

Total retail trade turnover in March came to 1,045 billion forints at current prices.

Péter Cseresnyés, state Secretary for trade policy and consumer protection, said that hopefully the recovery from the crisis would start in May with the gradual easing of emergency measures and the realisation of deferred purchases lifting turnover.

Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI