Germany's Federal Statistical Office is estimating that retail sales in the country, which has Europe's biggest economy, slipped by between 0.1 and 0.3 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year.
The estimate released Friday was based on sales figures from January through November, adjusted for inflation and for the fact that December had two shopping days fewer than the same month in 2011.
Economic growth in Germany, which traditionally has been fueled by strong exports, cooled last year amid persistent gloom in other countries in the 17-nation eurozone but business confidence has rebounded recently. Official 2012 growth figures are due on Jan. 15.
The statistical office reported that retail sales in November were 1.2 percent higher than the previous month, but 0.9 percent lower than a year earlier.