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Italians bid arrivederci to Mom-and-Pop grocers: The number of supermarkets surges after the law allowed the mixing of products, fostering one-stop shopping.

Los Angeles Times by Frances D’emilio February 16, 2003

Rome – Mom and pop are closing up shop, hanging up their prosciutto knives, bagging the last plump tomatoes and calling it a day. Or, rather, a lifetime, as they take off their white grocers’ aprons for good.

In ancient city alleys as well as suburban malls across Italy, supermarkets are luring customers away from family-run neighborhood shops with lower prices and more convenient hours, defying skeptics who thought that Italians would never abandon generations-old shopping habits.

Decades after French, German, British and other Europeans became supermarket regulars, Italians from police officers on lunch breaks to grandmothers cooking for two generations are increasingly walking right past the mom-and-pops and through the automatic doors of the chain stores.

Supermarkets “wiped us out,” said Silvana Moscatelli, who, after 44 years of grating Parmesan and cutting crusty bread in her store in Rome, rolled down the shutters for vacation last summer and never rolled them back up.

“We were putting in 14 hours a day for a fistful of flies,” Moscatelli said bitterly. “We’d see our old customers walk by with supermarket shopping bags.”

The number of supermarkets has surged 74%, from 3,696 in 1996 to 6,413 in 2000, says Confcommercio, an Italian business lobby. In the decade through 2001, the number of small food shops slumped 24%, from roughly 254,000 to 193,000, said Confesercenti, a small businesses lobby.

Confesercenti estimates that 50% of Italian purchases of food and other household goods are now made in supermarkets or superstores.

In great measure, the supermarket success story reflects Italy’s changing demographics and economics.

Generations of homemakers bought bread, cheese, produce and meat in a daily ritual, a chatty, time-consuming procession from one neighborhood store to the next.

Until a few years ago, Italian laws forbade food shops from mixing their products. Bakeries, for example, couldn’t sell fruit, and vegetable stands couldn’t carry eggs.

But with both spouses often working these days, there’s less time for all those stops to buy bread, let alone fettuccine, fish, fruit, and the detergent to wash the dishes from three-course dinners.

And in the last decade or so, supper has increasingly supplanted lunch as the main meal of the day.

That means that more workers are eating near their workplaces, often picking up ready-to-eat salads or sandwich fixings at supermarkets, which, unlike the mom-and-pops, don’t close for lunch.

Many supermarkets are open on Sunday too. Family-run stores rarely are.

Consumers say the bottom line is price.

Vincenzo De Fiore, a doorman for 34 years at a palazzo in an upscale neighborhood near the Pantheon in Rome, said his wife used to shop every day in the nearest outdoor market, at Campo Dei Fiori, as pricey as it is picturesque.

“We have blue-collar pay but we were shopping in a place for signori, ” said De Fiore, who has an apartment in the palazzo.

No more. His wife goes to a supermarket that opened a block away, and offers fresh fish and produce.

Antonio Tiberi, who runs a tiny grocery with his brother just down the block from that supermarket, said that had he known the store was going to open, he would have never set up shop in the neighborhood seven years ago.

With half a dozen supermarkets now within strolling distance of his shop, he worries about his business as well as the character of the elegant, leisurely paced neighborhood.

“With all these supermarkets, we’ll be a cold city, like in England,” he said. “We’ll lose that human dimension. My customers chat with me. Supermarkets don’t have time for that.”

The new supermarket down the street — DiperDi, Italian for “day by day” — is a franchise operation affiliated with the French supermarket giant Carrefour. DiperDi has attractive prices and offers old-fashioned home delivery, a plus for Romans who live in centuries-old buildings without elevators.

“We strongly advise [the franchisees] which prices to post. We see the prices in the piazzas, in the neighborhood markets,” Luigi Vialardi, director of neighborhood stores and wholesaling for Carrefour Italia, said from his office in Turin.

Even the people of Italy’s south, where social traditions tend to be stronger, have opened up to supermarkets, Vialardi said.

Mauro Bussoni, a Confesercenti official, said that in allowing supermarkets, government authorities were betting that the new stores would generate more jobs than they might eliminate.

Among the newest on the supermarket payrolls are Silvana Moscatelli’s husband and son, who worked in the family store before it closed last summer.


Posted October 20, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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