By Maria Sheahan and Toby Sterling
BERLIN/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Germans snapped up smartphones, Christmas decorations, sweaters, jewellery and gift vouchers in a pick-up in shopping over the Black Friday weekend, retailers said, while spending improved in the Netherlands.
But a survey of 400 businesses by Germany's HDE retailers' association showed just over half of merchants still said they were dissatisfied with sales last week, versus some 30% that said they were satisfied.
Retailers across Europe fear the overall Christmas trading season could be the worst in at least a decade as shoppers cut back, hit by double-digit inflation and soaring energy bills.
However, early indications suggest Black Friday has provided some relief.
"Business clearly picked up at the weekend," HDE's General Manager Stefan Genth said in a statement, after shops had a muted week.
In the Netherlands, data from credit card transactions and from online shops both showed strong year-on-year growth for the Black Friday week, though Dutch price inflation of 15% played a role.
Data from International Card Services showed transaction numbers in Holland up 12% and spending up 30% for the week.
Large purchases such as electronics and furniture were rare. Spending was highest at department stores, for shoes and clothing and for food and drinks, ICS said.
HDE expects German retail sales to total more than 120 billion euros ($125 billion) in November and December, down 4% in real terms from the year-earlier period.
Only 20% of respondents to the HDE survey said they were optimistic about sales between now and the end of the year.
"The Christmas business is marked by the energy crisis. Retailers are feeling the uncertainty of consumers," Genth said, with inner-city retailers also still feeling the impact of COVID-19.
($1 = 0.9598 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Toby Sterling; Editing by Rachel More, Alexander Smith, Matt Scuffham and Jan Harvey)