Euro zone retail sales fell more than expected in March against February as consumers cut purchases of food, drinks and tobacco, the European Union's statistics office said today. 

Retail sales, a proxy for household spending, decreased 0.5% in March month-on-month in the euro zone, Eurostat said. 

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a much smaller decrease of 0.1%. 

Yearly figures were also lower than expected, with sales up 2.1%, below market forecasts of a 2.5% rise. 

The fall in March sales was partly offset by an upward revision of data for February. Eurostat said that in February sales rose 0.3% on a monthly basis and 2.7% year-on-year. 

It had previously estimated an increase of 0.2% on a monthly basis and 2.4% on a yearly basis. 

Today's figures show that on a monthly basis, retail sales of food, drinks and tobacco products dropped 1.3%in March, the biggest fall among all the categories. 

Sales of non-food products, excluding automotive fuels, went down 0.5% month-on-month. Purchases of fuel for cars also dropped 0.4% on a monthly basis. 

Among the largest euro zone economies, Germany posted a 1.1% monthly drop of retail sales and France recorded a decrease of 0.7%. In Spain, sales increased 0.4% on a monthly basis in March.