By Max Clarke

Ailing high streets and a depressed retail sector are problems not unique to the UK: statistics published today by the EU’s Eurostat office show a 1% drop in retail sectors across the Eurozone.

Recent month-on-month gains in UK high streets have not been sufficient to reverse the overall decline witnessed over the past 18 months, though a 0.4% growth is a move in the right direction.

Unsurprisingly, sovereign debt and recent instability in Portugal has seen the country lead the downward trend with a -4.7% drop in retail trade for March 2011, compared to the same month the previous year. Slovenia and Germany followed suite, with -3 and -2.1% declines; while Estonia, Ireland and Romania saw their retail sectors grow.

Inflation continues to depress consumer confidence across the Eurozone and gains are unlikely to be seen until RPI (retail price index) inflation returns to pre-recession levels. The European central bank recently raised their rates by 0.25% for the first time since 2008 to address the continent’s inflation problems, though this move has been criticised as anti growth.