Euro zone retail sales jumped by more than expected in February, the month before coronavirus measures spread across the continent, as shoppers stocked up on food and drink and sharply increased their online spending. 

Retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro currency rose by 0.9% from January and by 3% year-on-year, the latter a 12-month high, EU statistics office Eurostat said today. 

Economists had on average forecast a monthly rise of 0.1% and a year-on-year increase of 1.7%. 

Sales rose sharpest in the month for food, drink and tobacco, by 2.4%, and for mail order and online sales, up 5.6%. 

Non-food sales rose a modest 0.2%, with a decline for computer equipment and books. Automotive fuel sales also slipped. 

Of the larger economies, retail sales were 1.2% higher in Germany and up 1.1% in France, but there were no February data for Italy, the European country first and worst hit by the coronavirus crisis. 

Compared with a year earlier, food, drink and tobacco sales were also strong.

Non-food sales were not much weaker, with a decline in spending on clothes, but increases for electrical goods, furniture, computer equipment, books, medical goods and a very sharp spike for online sales.
 

Non-food sales were not much weaker, with a decline in spending on clothes, but increases for electrical goods, furniture, computer equipment, books, medical goods and a very sharp spike for online sales.