Special Report: Why Italy’s stay-home shoppers terrify the euro zone

Friday, November 28, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Gavin Jones
Reuters.com
Fri Nov 28, 2014

(Reuters) – “Three for the price of two” used to be the most common special offer in Giorgio Santambrogio’s supermarket chains. It has barely been used this year. The reason explains why efforts to resuscitate Italy’s moribund economy are failing.

“People aren’t stocking up because they know prices will be lower in a month’s time,” says Santambrogio, chief executive of Vege, a Milan-based association covering 1,500 supermarkets and specialist stores. “Shoppers are demanding steeper and steeper discounts.”

Italy is stuck in a rut of diminishing expectations. Numbed by years of wage freezes, and skeptical the government can improve their economic fortunes, Italians are hoarding what money they have and cutting back on basic purchases, from detergent to windows.

Weak demand has led companies to lower prices in the hope of luring people back into shops. This summer, consumer prices in Italy fell on a year-on-year basis for the first time in a half-century, and they have barely picked up since. Falling prices eat into company profits and lead to pay cuts and job losses, further depressing demand. The result: Italy is being sucked into a deflationary spiral similar to the one that has afflicted Japan’s economy for much of the past two decades.

That is the nightmare scenario that policymakers, led by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, are desperate to avoid.

The Rest…HERE

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