MILAN — As sales season began this week in many Italian cities, hordes of shoppers swarmed the streets looking for bargains to start the New Year.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

With many stores slashing price tags by up to 70 percent, lines formed outside both designer boutiques and midrange stores, with up to a two-hour wait in some cases. The shopping frenzy also spread to stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Moncler, which don’t discount. According to Federmoda/Confcommercio, the Italian retail and commercial association for fashion, Italian families will spend an average of 418 euros, or $ 599 at current exchange, on apparel and accessories during sales season, for a total of 6.1 billion euros, or $8.8 billion. The revenue equals a 21 percent slice of the sector’s total volume. The average per capita expenditure will total 174 euros, or $250, according to Confcommercio. Davide Bordono, town councillor for retail and commerce in Rome, said the number of consumers taking advantage of the winter sales season grew by 20 percent compared with last year. The government legally mandates the dates sales season can take place in Italy in both January and July.

La Rinascente, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Hogan and Alberta Ferretti were among the most crowded stores.

On Jan. 2, the first day of the sales period, Monica Ferreri, head of communications at La Rinascente, reported record sales of 2 million euros, or $2.87 million, as more than 60,000 people flocked to the department store. Management was forced to rearrange the direction of the escalators to ease traffic flows. Discounts ranged between 30 to 50 percent and best-selling women’s apparel items were tailored pieces.

Angelo Cavalleri, retail manager at Hogan, noted a 22 percent increase in attendance although the brand doesn’t mark down its classic sneakers. “Aware of the air of crisis, we ordered less fall merchandise to avoid excess stock so fall was in general a good season for us, heightened by a positive beginning of sales season,” said Cavalleri.

Laura Casali, the manager at Alberta Ferretti, saw shopper traffic rise by at least five percent as consumers spent an average of 750 euros, or $1,076, for the house’s specialty — pretty dresses.

Over at Missoni, sales were also brisk with discounts of 30 percent and clients picking up patterned knitwear and scarves.

The McArthurGlen outlets around Italy also registered heavy traffic, with further discounts of up to 50 percent off the already marked down merchandise. During the first weekend of sales, the Castel Romano outlet counted 75,000 visitors, a 15 percent increase against the same period of last year, while the one in the Veneto region saw traffic up by 40 percent to 45,000.

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