Retail trade suffers biggest dip in sales for over 20 years

The golden years of the Swiss retail sector during the coronavirus pandemic are finally over. In 2023, stores and online stores suffered the biggest drop in sales for over 20 years. Only price increases saved the balance sheet.

Overall, sales at local retailers fell by 0.1 percent, according to provisional figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Wednesday. The slight decline is due to inflation. This is because real turnover, i.e. excluding inflation, fell by 2.0%.

This is the sharpest decline since the turn of the millennium. Not even during the crisis years of 2002 and 2003 after the internet bubble burst or in 2015 and 2016, when the retail trade suffered from the discontinuation of the minimum euro exchange rate and the Swiss flocked to buy abroad, had sales at local retailers suffered so significantly.

Almost all retailers are selling less

The downward trend from the previous year continued in the food, beverages and tobacco retail sector (-2.3%). During the lockdowns during the pandemic, stores had benefited from the fact that people had eaten much more at home as restaurants were closed.

Non-food retailers (excluding petrol stations) lost 1.7% in real terms, after benefiting somewhat from pent-up demand from the pandemic in the previous year. Almost all sectors suffered losses. The biggest dip was among sellers of household appliances, textiles, DIY and furnishings (-4.2%), which had already come under pressure a year earlier.

Retail sales of publishing products, sports equipment and toys fell by 2.5%. Sales of clothing and shoes also fell by 3.8%. Only sales of information and communication technology devices such as computers and cell phones increased by 6.2%.

Significant price increases

However, substantial price increases in some cases saved the annual balance sheet for many retailers. Despite lower sales, food, beverage and tobacco sellers were able to achieve a significant nominal increase in turnover of 1.7%. And retailers selling non-food products were able to limit the fall in turnover to 0.9%.

Only in the case of fuels was the trend reversed: because petrol, diesel and heating oil have become much cheaper than a year ago, nominal sales of fuels fell by 8 percent, although slightly more fuel (+0.6 percent) was sold. (SDA)

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