The winter sales start officially in Rome on 8 January, but anyone walking around the city shopping centres would think that they had already begun. There are special reductions and offers in almost all shops. The city councellor responsible for retailing, Daniela Valentini, has sent out the city police to clamp down on sales that have started before the official date.They have already handed out more than 50 fines of up to 1,000 and are threatening closure for five days to two chain stores that are blatently breaking the rules.

Romes shopkeepers claim that sales at Christmas were down by 10 per cent or more and they are anxious to rid themselves of their winter stocks. However Councillor Valentini says that the opening date for the sales must be respected so that those who have waited to make a saving have a fair chance of getting the bargain they desire.