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Europe Watch: Holiday Blues … Surf’s Up … Anything Elsa?

<B>HOLIDAY BLUES:</B> Italy’s long-desired pickup in tourism isn’t materializing this summer. July tourist flows are down 2.6 percent and August is heading for a similar slump, according to data from trade organizations Assoturismo and...

HOLIDAY BLUES: Italy’s long-desired pickup in tourism isn’t materializing this summer. July tourist flows are down 2.6 percent and August is heading for a similar slump, according to data from trade organizations Assoturismo and Confesercenti. Flows to Rome and Florence are bucking the overall downturn and the tourism organizations said five-star hotels are “maintaining a positive trend.” Foreigners make up 36 percent of holiday-makers in Italy. Assoturismo and Confesercenti said they are witnessing a drop in visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, while American, British, Japanese, Russian and Spanish tourist flows are flat. There are slight increases in the number of Scandinavian, French and Eastern European travelers to Italy, the organizations said. — A.K.

SURF’S UP: Reporting its first set of financial results since going public last month, French surfwear firm Oxbow SA said its second-quarter sales rose 9.6 percent to 7.3 million euros, or $8.8 million at current exchange rates, versus 6.7 million euros, or $8.1 million, a year ago. For the half, sales rose 4.9 percent to 30.6 million euros, or $36.9 million, compared with 29.1 million euros, or $35.1 million, in the first half of 2003. Shares in Oxbow, based in Mérignac, France, are quoted on the Second Marché of Euronext Paris and fell 3 percent on Friday to close at 8 euros, or $9.65. As reported, Oxbow plans to use proceeds from the IPO to open stores and expand its women’s wear business. — Miles Socha

ANYTHING ELSA?: Shoppers cruising Galeries Lafayette in Paris might feel a sense of time warp when they happen upon Elsa Schiaparelli sweaters retailing from 55 to 70 euros, or $66 to $84 at current exchange. The department store reincarnated the late designer’s Surrealist spirit in homage to the exhibition under way at the Museum of Fashion and Textiles in Paris. Choices include a long-sleeved trompe l’oeil wool sweater with a red bow and a short-sleeved marine-striped sweater, both exact replicas of Schiaparelli models. Also for sale until Aug. 29 is the perfume, Shocking, in the famous Schiaparelli-designed flask — Gretchen Worsely