Rome, 2 January – A new law went into effect Monday allowing Italian stores to open and close whenever they please. Previously the law required that stores close after a certain number of hours per day, as well as some holidays, Sundays and one day during the work week. Bars and restaurants can also stay open non-stop. Intended to boost consumer spending, the relaxed rules are part of the emergency government’s package of stimulus and budget measures that aim to raise 30 billion euros and lift hurl the country out of its debt crisis.
Critics argue that the measure will only benefit large companies with the personnel to cover more shifts, while smaller businesses will lose their ability to compete. The measure comes as stores across Italy prepare for after-Christmas sales, which began in some southern cities Monday as the rest of the country follows suit throughout the week. According to the retail association Confcomercio, the average Italian spends 168 euros on clothing during the winter sales season. Yet estimates for 2012 from the consumer group Codacons have lowered the amount to 110 euros – a 30% drop – in light of the global economic crisis.(ANSA)