Germany's retail sales declined sharply in December, defying expectations for further increase, preliminary data from the Federal Statistical Office showed Thursday.
Retail sales fell 2.1 percent year-on-year, after a 1.9 percent increase in November. Economists were looking for a 1.5 percent gain.
The latest decrease was the biggest since a 3 percent slump in September.
Sales of food, beverages and tobacco decreased 1.5 percent and non-food sales shrunk 2.7 percent. Internet and mail order sales also declined in December, down 0.6 percent.
The monthly decline was much worse than economists had forecast.
After seasonal and calendar adjustments, retail sales tumbled 4.3 percent from November, when it grew a revised 1.6 percent. Economists had expected only a 0.5 percent fall.
For the full year 2018, retail sales grew 1.2 percent, expanding for a ninth year in row. In 2017, sales had grown just 0.1 percent.