NEWS » Sharp decline in the number of small shops in Italy

Sharp decline in the number of small shops in Italy

According to a study released by “Confesercenti”, little
shops in Italy are disappearing. In the last 10 years one shop out of four has
closed. From 2002 to 2012 the average number of retail outlets per thousand
inhabitants decreased from 2.1 to 1.6, falling by 24.3 percent.

According to “Censis” it is not only an Economical
problem but a cultural one. The city and the traders must find something to
replace the social/economical life involving the corner shop. A new social
network and protection for the environment will be needed after all these
activities will be left empty.

The phenomenon is more consistent in the north where the
average of 24.3 per cent is generally exceeded. In the South little shops
resist better due to less competition from big shopping malls. The most
affected was food retail. In the provincial capital cities there were more than
48,000 food retail shops in 2002, in 2012 the numbers fell to 36,000. The
crisis has also affected big brands because of rising rents, liberalization of
hours of sale and e-commerce.  

It all comes down to the prices. Small shops can’t
compete with big chains, but until recently, the ability to give the customer a
better service mattered. Now the economic crisis has swept away this advantage,
the competence of the retailer is less important. The homely atmosphere of the
small shop has disappeared along with the possibility of having a friendly chat
with someone.

The problem doesn’t only affect the traders but also the
entire population. Given the rapid aging of the population, the issue has
become social. The elderly can’t take the car and go to the mall so the neighbourhood
store is part of their quality of life. Between 2002 and 2012, in the
provincial capitals the over-65 population has increased by 11.5 percent and
now accounts for 20.2 per cent of the total.

The city should be the place for meeting and cultivating relationships
and small shops could help to make the city a more friendly place. In many
cases retailers have not been able to diversify the offer, probably the retail
store that does not offer anything special will disappear, but being the
shopping malls often badly connected with public transports there might still
be a place for middle size shops in the neighbourhood. 

Giulia Lombardo

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