MILAN — Mother Nature has extended her holiday shopping challenges to Italy.
After a weekend storm hit retailers on the East Coast of the U.S., most of northern Italy awakened Tuesday to as much as 10 inches of snow, disrupting the plans of stores and holiday shoppers, snarling transportation, closing schools and leaving some city streets temporarily desolate.
Snow started to fall heavily here on Monday afternoon, compelling most people to give up their Christmas shopping in order to get home as traffic came to a standstill. Most stores in central Milan said they stayed open for their regular hours, but shoppers were virtually nonexistent. More snow is expected today.
“We closed regularly, but there was no one around — the shop was empty,” said Dimitri Marchesini, manager at the Missoni store on Via Sant’Andrea.
The holiday season in Italy and across the rest of Europe has been relatively strong, even though many shoppers are trading down and sticking to their budgets.
By Tuesday afternoon, retail activity was increasing at Milan’s La Rinascente department store and Mazzolari, a top-end perfumery store.
“When it started snowing [Monday], everyone fled home, but it seems that business picked up again Tuesday.…We specialize in eveningwear, and business has been brisk,” said Eleonora Scaramucci, the owner of two namesake stores and president of the retailers association of the Brera area.
“Some of our salespeople couldn’t make it to work and business was slow” before rebounding a bit” later in the day, said a spokesman for Moroni Gomma, which specializes in home design and objects.
Snow also sprinkled central London, but not enough to dampen the shopping spirits.
Ed Burstell, buying director of Liberty, said it was too late for the weather to have any real impact. “The customer is totally out there now and it’s all about gifting. The London consumer is a lot tougher,” he said. “This inclement weather doesn’t [deter] them. Our Christmas shop is embarrassing it has so little left.”
He said jewelry, scarves and niche specialized fragrances performed well at Liberty in the run-up to the holidays, and men’s and women’s wear have been “really consistent.”
One of the pockets of slower sales has been handbags, with some consumer resistance to price points. “I think some of that accessory money that went on handbags is now going to jewelry,” Burstell said.