German retailers have called for the government to reduce VAT in a bid to boost flagging sales in the sector. Business has slowed in recent months, with some retailers reporting sales declines of up to 20% for January and February compared to the same period last year. German retailers' association HDE said food retailers were faring marginally better than clothing and general merchandise. However, only hard discounters like Aldi were demonstrating growth. Cutting VAT from 16% to 13% for a limited period would kickstart sales and help them recover after a disastrous few months, said the association. However, retailers' calls for the government to abandon tax increases on tobacco have fallen on deaf ears. HDE's Hubertus Pellengahr said he was "not very hopeful" the government would listen to their calls for VAT cuts. And "no progress" had been made on the thorny issue of opening hours, far more restrictive in Germany than elsewhere in Europe: "With elections coming up in September, nothing will get done now until next year." {{NEWS }}