Italy retail sales continue to erode in January, but online sales see big rise

Italy’s retail sales continued to decline in January, according to information released Friday by the country’s National Statistics Institute, though there were some bright areas in the data including a dramatic increase in online sales.

The Italian institute, or ISTAT, reported that retail sales were down by 3 percent compared to the previous month and by 6.8 percent compared to the same month in 2020. The full-year figure is especially stark given that January 2020 was the last month in Italy entirely untouched by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

ISTAT said the new year opened “with a continuation of the health emergency and consequently continued limits on the activity of commercial establishments.”

But compared to the previous month, food sales crept higher, up by 0.1 percent in value and 0.3 percent by volume.

Online sales showed the biggest change, however, with an increase of 38.4 percent in January compared to the year-ago period.

Other areas performed less strongly, with non-food purchases down by 15.5 percent compared to the previous year, led by a 36.4-percent reduction in footwear, leather and travel items, and a 33.0-percent fall in clothing sales.

The developments come amid an overall economic contraction of 8.8 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year based on ISTAT’s preliminary data.