Over 627,000 shops are vacant following the closure of the companies that rented them, according to new figures from Confesercenti, the association for small and medium-sizes businesses in the retail, tourism and services centre.
During the first eight months of this year, about 30 shops a day were shuttered.
Although Italy's economy is starting to recover and people are slowly starting to spend more, the association said that “the retail crisis is not over”.
“It's really been a struggle. If you walk down the street there are vacant shops everywhere,” Giovanni Tirri, a 51-year-old café owner in the San Lorenzo area of Rome, told The Local.
“The problem has been trying to remain affordable while the rent increases. We have been lucky that customers have remained loyal, but not everybody has been so fortunate.”
Confesercenti said the problem is more acute in suburban areas, with the number of vacant shops nearing 40 percent. The figures were based on findings from property companies.
The association is calling for the introduction of agreed rents and a flat-rate tax to encourage the creation of new businesses, as well as to revitalize towns and cities.
However, encouraging people to start a business could prove extremely difficult.
“Starting a business from scratch is always a risk, but when the situation is like this, it's foolish,” warned Tirri.
By Ellie Bennett