Italy’s economy is helped by online businesses boosted by the pandemic


Pierangelo Masciadri has been selling his little tie studio It has been on Lake Como since the 1970s, but the pandemic forced him to sell online.

As companies across Europe closed their doors during the lockdown last year, Maciadri has tens of thousands of customers worldwide, including former US President Bill Clinton, who opened stores on eBay. “This is a huge revolution for my business,” Maciadri said.

“Who would have thought of learning what SEO is at the age of 70… When the first order arrived, I couldn’t believe it happened.”

He is not alone.Italy’s booming merchandise exports have become the main driving force of the country’s economic growth Economic recovery Starting from the historic recession last year, companies using digital technology have rapidly increased.

By April, merchandise exports were 6% higher than the January 2020 level-the strongest growth rate among the major economies in the Eurozone, while France and Germany had growth rates of less than 1%. Therefore, since the beginning of the pandemic, Italy’s merchandise trade surplus has surged.

In January 2020, online retail sales increased by more than 50%, well above the Eurozone average of 42%.

It’s late. Italy has long been a digital laggard. In 2015, the year before Rome launched its industrial plan to promote technology investment, less than one-tenth of SMEs sold online, which was only half of the Eurozone average.

This has increased by 6 percentage points, but it still leaves most people without online sales. This hinders Italy’s productivity, which has not only been hit by the crisis, but has also seen little real growth since the millennium.

Andrea Basso, sales director of Aptos Italy, a company that sells retail technology mainly to small and medium-sized enterprises, said that because many companies face “extremely limited situations” during the pandemic, “therefore they are Forced to find creative solutions, emphasizing the digital process”.

Tiemaker Pierangelo Masciadri and his two daughters

Tiemaker Pierangelo Masciadri (center) with his daughters in his studio in the northern village of Bellagio © Luisella Molteni

“Especially very small companies have realized the importance of extremely fast response times if they want to compete,” Basso added.

Dario Carosi, the operator of Mondo Convenienza, which designs, sells and distributes furniture and home accessories, said that even in the most severe phase of the pandemic, digital investment has kept the company’s turnover at a normal level.70 % key.

Carosi said that the company’s digital division established in 2017 “saved us.” Since then, the company has shifted more resources to digital projects because they recognize that their customers will continue to migrate online.

Digitization and innovation are also at the core of Italy’s ambitious post-pandemic reform plan. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi took office earlier this year, promising to overhaul the country’s notoriously slow bureaucracy and legal system.

The chart shows that Italian companies' performance on most digital indicators is below the Eurozone average

He wants to use the 205 billion euros that Rome will receive as Its share in the EU Recovery Fund The digital economy, as well as infrastructure projects, climate and environmental initiatives, education and health.

Draghi said at a press conference last month that digitization is “critical” to reduce socioeconomic inequality and help the economy recover from Covid-19.

“This is one of the government’s most urgent priorities,” Draghi said. “Many items [in other sectors of the economy] It cannot be implemented without digitizing our public management and our planning capabilities. “

Massimo Rodà, a senior economist at Confindustria, an industry lobby group, said that digitalization is “a decisive factor for a country’s economic development and competitiveness.”

Histogram of the percentage of non-financial companies with e-commerce sales, showing that small Italian companies are lagging behind in terms of digitalization by number of employees

“It changes consumption and production patterns, business models, preferences and relative prices. It also affects policy-related variables such as employment, productivity and inflation,” he added.

This helps alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic. Italy is the only major Eurozone economy to grow in the first quarter of this year.its 0.1% increase in output From the first three months; in contrast, the Eurozone as a whole contracted by 0.3%.

Irene Finocchi, a professor of computer science at the University of Louise in Rome, said: “Italy’s entire future lies in digitization, and the current situation has made the country’s modernization process unimpeded, because the country has been moving at a slow pace for a long time. Go forward.” “This is finally an opportunity to catch up with other countries.”

This shift during the pandemic means that more Italian companies are enjoying the benefits of their unexpectedly rapid transition to digital commerce.

Maura Maitini runs a shop in the medieval town of Assisi, selling religious items and ceremonial clothing, a popular destination for pilgrims. She said her business was “almost flattened by the pandemic”-until she opened a shop online.

“The first item we gave away was the Holy Grail,” she said. “Of course, the contact between people is important, but faith is also evolving with technology. Sometimes, when someone orders a pendant or rosary online, I will bless it in church before sending it.”



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