Retail sales plunge in March, more jobless catering staff

The impact of the economic crisis on the Dutch retail sector intensified in March, with retail sales falling 5.3%, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

A 2.8% increase in prices failed to offset the downturn in consumer purchases in volume terms, which were down 7.8% on a year ago.

Differences in the number of shopping days accounted for two percentage points of the decline, the CBS said. Non-food shops were hardest hit, with sales down almost 12%.

‘Even taking the impact of shopping days into account, these are very bad figures,’ ABN Amro analyst Nico Klene told the Financieele Dagblad. ‘The entire first quarter has been bad.’

Meanwhile, the number of hospitality industry workers claiming unemployment benefits has doubled since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, according to the state-run benefit agency UWV.

No improvement is expected this year, the UWV said.

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