Dutch retailers ended 2014 on a positive note: as Statistics Netherlands reported last month, retail sales volume had grown for the first time in six years. In spite of this recovery, however, Dutch retail trade is lagging behind retail trade in other countries in Europe. Its volume increase of 1.0 percent is below the EU average of 2 percent. In only eight of the other 27 EU countries was the year- on-year change less positive than in the Netherlands; in five countries the volume change was negative. Retailers in neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany saw their volumes rise by slightly more: 1.1 and 1.7 percent respectively. Luxemburg and a number of east European countries showed substantial growth.
Dutch retail trade recovering more slowly than neighbouring countries
Since the start of the credit crisis in 2008, Dutch retail trade has been performing less well than trade in Belgium and Germany, while in the years before the crisis it grew more strongly. In Belgium, the volume of sales continued to rise steadily, even during the crisis. And German retail turnover has been growing almost continuously since 2009. In the Netherlands, sales shrank year after year for five years in a row, and only in 2014 did retailers manage a modest volume growth of 1 percent.
The decline in Dutch retail sales coincides with a decrease in household consumption in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2014. While consumption continued to grow in Belgium and Germany in that period, in the Netherlands it dropped sharply. Purchasing power for the Dutch population decreased for four years in a row (2010-2013), and developments on the Dutch housing market also had a negative effect on consumer spending. In 2014 consumption in the Netherlands was nearly 5 percent lower than in 2008, while in Belgium and Germany it was around 5.5 percent higher.
Dutch non-food sales hit hardest
The Dutch non-food sector in particluar is lagging in a European perspective. Shop sales of clothes, consumer electronics and toys dropped sharply after 2008. Stores selling home furnishings and decoration also booked less turnover. Although sales in Dutch shops were up for the first time in five years in 2014, the level was still well below that of 2005. Conversely, Belgian and German non-food shops have seen business increase overall since 2005.
Food sector reasonably stable
Sales by Dutch food, drink and tobacco retailers rose by 1.2 percent in 2014. This increase is larger than the European average for this sector: 0.6 percent. Unlike non-food retail sales, sales in the food sector have risen slightly compared with 2005. Since the 2008 crisis, the volume of sales has remained reasonably steady, while in Germany and Belgium the volume was smaller than in 2005.