Retail: real crisis or fleeting moment?

“They should include shopping among high cardiovascular risk activities. My heart never beats faster than when I see a 50% REDUCED sign.”
(S. Kinsella – I love shopping)
Shopping, a real passion for some; a despair for others! The writer is a real addict since, as a child, she used to see high-class Milanese ladies, the so-called "sciure", enter and leave the small tailoring studio in Porta Romana where her grandmother cut and sewed tailored clothes.
It was the early 90s and Milan still boasted countless workshops, small shops and family-run businesses in which craftsmanship and "made-to-measure" still had an important and demanding clientele. Not only fashion but every type of object, from jewellery to furniture, passing through the service of dishes and glasses, could boast the small artisan shop to which the customer turned with particular needs, requesting something unique and not mass-produced.
But what about craftsmanship today? What about the made in Italy, which has made us so famous in the world and of whose popularity we still shine?
What happened to the small shops, the family-run shops that used to call each customer by name?
Tailor shops in the 50s
Some of the companies we represent have developed starting from very small realities such as Zafferano, born from the idea of the designer Federico De Majo whose family had a small furnace in Murano where glass objects were produced. Another example is IVV which still remains a cooperative in a small town in Tuscany, a region famous for Made in Italy.
Italy is a brand itself. Its manufacturing vocation is so appreciated in the world that Made in Italy is considered one of the most important brands on a global level. In fact, in the Best Countries Report 2021, relating to the previous year, Italy ranks 16th out of 78 countries. Today, however, it is in 1st place for cultural influence and 2nd place both in terms of tourist attractiveness and in terms of artistic prestige.
IVV glassmaker in Tuscany
Why is our perception different? Because, alas, the Bel Paese shows structural weaknesses in many respects: strong political instability, high level of bureaucracy, slowness of justice, low degree of digitization, contained medium-sized companies, widespread problems of corruption and tax evasion. All this has repercussions in a continuous demographic decline and in a strong economic stagnation that also affects retail.
The grip of the pandemic is definitely not behind us. For Italian retail, back from two years of black crisis, 2022 is still difficult. Consumers, as reported by Confimprese, keep the handbrake on given the worrying energy crisis and the war in Ukraine in the background.
And Hong Kong? Let's analyse last year's data!
Sales for the first five months of 2022 decreased by 2.9%. The sectors that were less affected by the crisis were supermarkets (4%), thanks to the fact that people, forced home by the pandemic, could not go out for dinner or lunch. Clothing and footwear recorded the largest decline, with a decrease of 14.2%. Online sales, on the other hand, saw a 29% increase, reflecting the fact that online shopping has become the norm during the pandemic.
The lack of tourism remains an important factor. The fact that the hotel quarantine no longer exists does not mean that tourism is back. Hong Kong, apart from being a financial center, is not a place where a tourist stays for more than 3 or 4 days, those days in which, due to the 0+3 self-monitoring policy, he/she is not allowed to go to bars and restaurants but is forced to test every day with a RAT and every 2 days with a PCR, for a week. Not very appealing, what do you think?
Before the pandemic, Hong Kong was the place where many tourists from all over the world (but especially from Mainland China), in transit to Thailand, Vietnam, Bali and other Southeast Asian countries, stopped for a few days and populated restaurants, bars, street markets and shops. The lack of tourism, if the borders don't open, and if the Government still force people to wear masks everywhere, we can't think the crisis is over.
Covid is something we have to live with it for a long, too long time. Can we afford to lose yet more years? How many companies have to close before we realize that this so-called "new normal" is too tight for us? Isn't it time to "throw your heart over the fence"?
We keep being patient and, as always, we try to raise some concerns about this economic situation which, in one way or another, whether you are expats or locals, has been afflicting us for a long, too long time.

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