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Italy’s New Shopping Hours

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti presented a “Save Italy” plan in December that included liberalizing store hours around the country.

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ITALY’S NEW HOURS: It’s now possible to shop well past cocktail hour in Milan. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti presented a “Save Italy” plan in December, pushing forth a series of controversial labor reforms and tax increases, as well as liberalizing store hours around the country starting in January.

This weekend, stores in the Lombardy region, home to fashion capital Milan, are giving the new schedule a test drive. The City of Milan’s Web page said stores will be allowed “to remain open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for no longer than 13 consecutive hours,” on Friday, Jan. 6 — a national holiday — and Sunday, Jan. 8.

Italy has long had strict laws governing store hours and the timing of sales, and reaction to the deregulation has been mixed. Many small business owners are fearful of increased vandalism at night and fierce competition from major chains, while customers are largely pleased at the more flexible shopping hours. Italians spent less this holiday season than in the past, however, and as sales kicked off Thursday, it’s unclear whether the new store hours will boost business.