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ALL CHANGE IN ITALY: After introducing the “Save Italy” plan and various liberalizing decrees, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has succeeded in shaking up the rules governing store hours throughout the country. Gone are the days when nothing is open on Sunday or holidays: from now on, businesses can choose to stay open. The debate over store hours had turned into a battle of tug-of-war, between the Monti government, which insists that liberalization is necessary to promote healthy competition, and numerous regional leaders, labor unions and small business owners, who fear that liberalizing store hours will bring stiff competition from large chains, potentially putting some specialty shops out of business.
In January, many regions, including Lombardy — home to Italian fashion capital Milan — tested the new store hours, to mixed response. Now, as the liberalizations become reality, protesters are left fighting for minor adjustments. The Monti government has also proposed to deregulate in-store sales and promotions, but the jury is still out on that issue.