January 9, 2017 / 8:58 AM / 10 months ago

Swiss retail sales rise for first time since Dec 2014

(Adds context, quotes)

By John Revill

ZURICH, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Swiss retail sales rose in November for the first time since December 2014, data showed on Monday, halting a decline in a hard-pressed sector that is set to stay under pressure this year.

Retail sales rose 0.2 percent on a nominal basis from a year earlier, according to figures from the Federal Statistics Office, or 0.9 percent in real terms and adjusted for working days.

The rise was the first since the Swiss National Bank scrapped a cap on the Swiss franc in January 2015, a move which sent the currency sharply higher against the euro, making shopping over the border in France and Germany more attractive for Swiss consumers.

Despite the upturn, experts expect a tough year for retailers as consumer confidence remains fragile.

Credit Suisse expects retail sales to fall by 0.1 percent in 2017, less than the nominal 1 percent fall in 2016 and 1.5 percent decline in 2015.

“We expect the situation to flatline in 2017 which is a stabilisation after the declines in the last few years,” said Sascha Jucker, an economist at Credit Suisse.

“There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but we don’t expect a strong recovery in the coming years unless something major happens like the franc starts to really devalue, which we don’t expect.”

Jucker said he expected shopping tourism to continue, while e-commerce would also make greater inroads as consumers bought more products from retailers like Zalando.

Food retailers are expected to be more resilient, increasing their sales by 0.5 percent this year, while Credit Suisse expects non-food sales to fall by 1.1 percent.

Clothing stores have taken a particularly hard hit in recent years as shoppers fled across the border and online shopping increased.

As a result, 20 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to reduced their floorspace this year, up from 16 percent a year earlier.

“2016 was a historically bad year after the bad year in 2015, and the whole sector is currently in a period of upheaval,” said Martin Hotz from retail consultancy Fuhrer & Hotz, who carried out the survey.

“The situation is extremely tense at the moment, with many shopkeepers asking lots of questions but they don’t have many answers,” he added.

“Many shops will give up, especially in the non-food market; the clothing companies are having a particularly tough time.” (Editing by Michael Shields)

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