The first quarter of 2011 started off slowly, with nominal value rising 2.3 percent across Europe, a slight decrease from the fourth quarter of 2010. Volume contracted in several countries – most notably Greece, which saw a six percent decline, followed by Finland (-5%) and Germany (-4%). Switzerland posted the largest drop in unit value, declining five percent during the quarter. Turkey continued to lead Europe in nominal growth, with a 12.4 percent rise, followed by the Czech Republic (+3.5%) and Slovakia (+3.4%). Once again, inflation accounted for much of the growth in unit value sales. The results posted in Q1 were consistent with those from the past two quarters, and are in-line with consumer confidence levels in the region. Europeans continue to feel extremely tentative about the economies in their countries and are reluctant to spend their extra Euros, Kroners and Pounds.
Twelve of the 21 nations Nielsen tracks recorded growth, although it ranged from 0.9 percent in Finland to 12.4 percent in Turkey. Among the big five economies, France topped the group with 2.7 percent nominal growth, followed by Spain (+2.4%) and the UK (+2.3%). Italy recoded zero growth, while Germany declined four percent.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia continued to recover after several challenging quarters. Ireland, however, which had shown new signs of life at the end of 2010, posted nominal growth of just 1.2 percent due primarily to rising value growth. Irish consumers continue to be quite pessimistic about the economy, the state of their personal finances and job prospects.