12/27/2011 07:56 EST | Updated 02/26/2012 05:12 EST

Greek retailers say Christmas sales worst in years amid acute financial crisis

ATHENS, Greece - Greek retailers say sales fell an estimated 30 per cent this Christmas, in the worst festive showing for shopowners in years as the country grapples with a debt crisis and a severe recession.

Preliminary figures from the National Confederation of Greek Commerce Tuesday found clothes and shoe sales took the heaviest hit, falling 40 per cent compared to last Christmas. It added that consumption of food and drinks fell 15 per cent, while toy sales suffered least.

The statement said 90 per cent of Greeks spent less in Christmas 2011, "out of necessity, not choice."

Greece is heading for a fourth year of recession and has near-record high unemployment. It has been kept afloat by foreign rescue loans since May 2010, after years of government overspending took it to the brink of bankruptcy.