Retail sales growth in the euro zone currency slowed sharply in March, European statistics agency Eurostat said today, as consumers spent less on non-food items than in February. 

Retail sales, an often revised indicator, rose by just 0.1% in March for a 0.8% annual increase, Eurostat said. 

That compared with expansion of 0.3% in the month and 1.8% year-on-year in February. 

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.5% month-on-month and an annual increase of 1.9%. 

While their volatile nature makes retail sales an unreliable indicator, the drop is in line with a slight cooling of the euro zone economy, as underlined by slowing economic growth in the first quarter of 2018.

The slowdown in retail sales was mainly due to a decline in spending on non-food items, especially clothing and pharmaceutical goods. 

Spending on food and drink increased slightly, while mail order and online shopping showed a growth of 3.3%from February. 

On a country-by-country basis, retail sales fell the most in Ireland and Germany, while Latvia, Portugal and Austria showed a sharp increases during March.