Retail sales in Italy fell by a record 2.1% in 2013 as the country struggled to pull out of a deep recession and consumers cut spending, official figures showed today.

The fall in the retail index in the euro zone's third-biggest economy was the worst since 1990, when the National Institute of Statistics data collection began.

Christmas shopping failed to galvanise consumers, with non-food sales dropping in December by 0.3% from a month earlier and food sales down 0.5%, according to the seasonally-adjusted data.

Italian consumers are suffering from increased taxes and unemployment.

Italy began shaking off its longest recession since World War II in the fourth quarter with a preliminary estimate showing growth of 0.1%, but the turn-around has done little to boost consumer spirits.

The government has said it is hoping for growth of around 1% this year and the Bank of Italy is predicting a 0.7% result but the International Monetary Fund is predicting only 0.6% growth.

The disappointing retail results came as new prime minister Matteo Renzi - who has vowed to tackle the labour market and boost growth - prepared to put his coalition to a vote in the lower house of parliament.