Spanish retail sales fell 8.2 per cent in March. It is the second largest fall on record and the 16th consecutive month of decline as unemployment soared and consumer confidence dropped.

Shoppers cut back on clothes and big-ticket items in particular.

The figure was better than the 9.9 per cent decline expected, and the 9.1 per cent drop recorded in February. This has led some analysts to predict Spain’s retail slide could be stabilising. However, others said it was too early to talk of recovery.