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Greek Retailers Face 30% Drop in Christmas Sales, Group Says

Greek retail sales may drop 30 percent in the 2011 Christmas shopping season as growing unemployment, tax increases and wage cuts crimp shopping budgets, a Greek business group said.

Under an “optimistic scenario,” sales would drop 22 percent from a year earlier while market signals show a 30 percent decline in holiday spending to 9.3 billion euros ($12.3 billion) from 13.2 billion euros in 2010, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce said in an e-mailed statement from Athens today. Christmas sales fell almost 20 percent last year from 2009.

Average individual budgets for Christmas gifts will fall to 288 euros from 410 euros the year before, the group said, basing its estimate on annual private consumption and household disposable income estimates from the Hellenic Statistical Authority and sales figures from previous years.

Successive rounds of tax increases and cuts in wages and pensions have deepened a recession now in its fourth year, with the Greek economy set to contract 5.5 percent this year and 2.8 percent in 2012, according to next year’s budget. The unemployment rate jumped to 18.4 percent in August from 16.5 percent the month before, data released on Nov. 10 by the statistics office showed.

Christmas shopping in Greece tends to start in the second half of November.

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