MILAN — More than a year into the coronavirus emergency that caused multiple lockdowns and related store closures, plus travel bans and changes in consumption habits, Italian retail sales are not yet on track for full recovery.
According to a study conducted by consultancy Ernst & Young for Confimprese — the national association of retailers — local consumption decreased 38.3 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to 2020 and was down 54.6 percent compared to 2019, pre-pandemic levels.
In particular, the research offers analysis and statistics on the performance of retailers operating in the fashion and clothing industry, food and beverage category and in the nonfood sector, including cosmetics and furniture.
The fashion and clothing sector was among those impacted the most, as sales in the three months ended March 31 were down 42.1 percent compared to the same period last year. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, sales in March alone dropped 68.3 percent versus 2019 but improved 83.1 percent compared to 2020.
Last month the majority of the country’s regions and districts were still under strict confinement measures with nonessential stores shuttered. Although retail operations have resumed across the country, the Italian government said last week that a progressive return to normalcy — with restaurants and bars resuming their activities, for example — will be set in motion starting April 26, although still dependent on risk factors and taking into account the spread of COVID-19 across different areas.
“With the progressive easing of restrictions, we expect a rapid return to consumption starting in May,” explained Ernst & Young’s business consulting leader Paolo Lobetti Bodoni. “Similarly to the August to September 2020 period, this would probably lift overall sales, translating into a 10 to 20 percent drop [in retail sales] compared to 2019 levels,” he said.
In terms of distribution, Ernst & Young assessed the impact of lockdowns and travel bans in the first quarter showing that overall retail sales in the period fell 55.5 percent in airports and train stations compared to 2020. Sales in malls and outlets decreased 48.5 and 45.2 percent, respectively, in the first quarter.
“It’s evident that with such a drop in revenues, the situation for the retail sector’s companies is hardly sustainable unless [the institutions] pass urgent measures to support and relaunch the affected sectors and channels,” urged Mario Maiocchi, managing director of Confimprese.