It is not just stifling summer heat that is keeping shoppers at bay on Rome's Via del Corso: as the economic crisis hits locals and tourists alike, many shops have little choice but to close for good.
The few people around seem to ziz zag from shop to shop, seeking relief from the heat in air-conditioned outlets and leaving behind frustrated shop assistants who struggle to sell anything despite discounts of up to 80 percent.
"The crisis has hit everyone," sighed one empty-handed customer, while shopkeepers up and down the street whiled away their time folding and re-folding piles of brightly coloured T-shirts and stylish outfits.
"The sales have not gone well," said clothes shop manager Fabio Anticoli. While the eternal city usually draws tourists from all over the world who spend their cash on Italian designs, "this year, it's an impoverished tourism."The sales have gone "very badly" compared with 2011 according to the shopkeepers' association Confesercenti, which reports a 20 percent drop in turnover in central Rome, a figure that rises to 40 percent in outer suburbs.
A stone's throw from St. Peter's Square, naked dummies stand forlornly in the dusty window of an abandoned shop which once sold children's clothing.
Even exclusive outfitters in via Campo Marzio behind Italy's parliament have been affected. The family-run shop Conti has shut down, not far from the up-scale shoemaker Nando er Cazolaio, which has also thrown in the towel.
Lina Rocchi, a lingerie shop founded in 1938, closed down and left a sign that read "80 years, three generations, a story comes to an end."
That prompted the Italian daily Repubblica to cry that "Rome's retail world is in mourning."While some like Marco Meghnagi, manager of a store selling "Made in Italy" shirts, say that boutiques forced to close will open up again elsewhere where the rent is lower, Confesercenti says the situation is much more serious.
"1,500 shops in Rome have already closed their doors for good since the start of 2012, and the figure might rise to 2,500 by the end of the year," said the association's head Valter Giammaria.
"It's an enormous figure, small shops that are part of Italy's history are disappearing one by one," he said, blaming the recession which grips the country, as well as tax hikes and competition from large shopping centres.
As the crisis hits home, some are battling bankruptcy by hawking their treasured summer residences, posting for-sale signs in their shop windows for beach houses and mountain lodges traditionally passed down through the generations."An increasing number of businessmen are forced to sell their second homes to be able to continue with their commercial activities," Giammaria said.
Italy's hotelier association Federalberghi has estimated that the crisis has also prevented 30 percent of Italians from going on holiday this year.
"The period of big holidays is over. No one goes off for a month in August any more. People go for a day or two at the sea-side, they stay near Rome and by Monday they are back at their desks," Giammaria said.
Hopeful of an extra sale or two, many shopkeepers are cancelling holidays to stay open throughout the summer.
According to a Confcommercio report, 80 percent of supermarkets and restaurants and more than 50 percent of bars are staying open this week despite a holiday on Wednesday because of the financial crisis.