Retail sales in the eurozone, which plunged to record lows while millions were confined, surged 17.8 percent in May compared with the month before, as people fanned out to buy furniture, electronics, clothing and computer equipment, Europe’s statistics agency reported this week. The biggest gains are in France and Germany, where spending has rebounded to near pre-confinement levels.
The current binge has doused some worries that Europeans might feel too shaken to spend again, as happened in China, where many chose to curtail expenditures after losing their jobs or having their pay slashed.
“Consumers are driving the rebound across much of Europe more than expected,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist of Berenberg Bank. “There is a relief that lockdowns are over.”
But whether people will keep opening their wallets remains to be seen. Spending is still around 7 percent lower than where it was before the pandemic hit.
For now, at least, patrons have not stopped flocking to socially distanced sidewalk tables at cafes and bistros in France. Dutch flower and plant suppliers are reporting record demand as shoppers crowd do-it-yourself stores around Europe to beautify their homes. In Germany, families are heading to malls to buy new appliances after the government lowered the value-added tax to stimulate sales.