Slovak retail sales expanded 7.5% y/y in March, data released by the statistics office on May 4 showed.
The result extends a trend of recovery in retail turnover that has run since November. It also raises the pace. Following a 7.4% gain recorded in the first month of 2017, growth had slowed to 5.6% in February. The sector rebounded in November after several months of poor readings.
Retail sales growth was capped below 2% in the second and third quarters of 2016. That cast doubt over the strength of household consumption, which was left to do most of the heavy lifting last year in a Visegrad region struggling for investment and consistent industrial output.
The continued recovery in March extends hope that, driven by a tightening labour market, consumption can remain a prop for the economy this year. The expansion of 1.5% on a monthly basis suggests the sector gained new momentum in the final month of the first quarter. Across January-March turnover grew 6.9%.
The stuttering form of retail sales saw growth across 2016 limited to 2.2%. Still, that was faster than the 1.7% recorded in 2015, which was a sharp slowdown from 3.6% in 2014.
However, the Slovak economy still managed to top the Visgrad region for GDP growth last year, with the economy expanding 3.3%. That was thanks to a better performance in investment than in its peers, but Bratislava still needs to move quickly to get the inflow of EU structural funds up to speed again this year.