the bill paid digitally

The online account, the news on the smartphone, the purchases with e-commerce, on the one hand. The bank branches that close, newsstands that disappear and the smaller shops who struggle to resist, on the other. Digital, with habits of purchasing goods and services remotely becoming consolidated, is progressively emptying physical spaces, changing the appearance of cities and towns. The numbers are merciless and give consistency to the perception of profound transformation of the places that traditionally constituted points of reference and aggregation. With a consequence that is often underestimated: the conditions of access to digital are not the same for everyone and are also determined by age and economic conditions. The real risk is that of cutting off the older and less well-off segment of the population, effectively excluded from the digital transition.

Credit institutions leave the territory, data from First Cisl

Banking desertification continues to advance, as emerges from the photograph of First Cisl, which processes the data made available as of 31 December 2023 by Bankitalia and Istat. In 2023, 826 branches closed in Italy, at the end of 2022 there were 677 (-3.9%). A quarter of the national territory, with a surface area greater than that of Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont, has been abandoned by credit institutions. The number of people who do not have access to a branch in the municipality of residence is also increasing: there are 362 thousand more than a year ago. However, there are over 6 million Italians residing in municipalities where there is only one branch left and who risk finding themselves soon cut off from banking services. 41.5% of Italian municipalities, around 3,300, no longer have bank branches in their territory. During 2023, 134 municipalities were ‘desertified’. A process that has advanced in recent years with ever greater speed: between 2015 and 2023, 13% of Italian municipalities saw the last branch close. A percentage that could rise further: the municipalities with only one branch are in fact 24% of the total. What makes the social unrest more acute is the modest diffusion of internet banking: in Italy only 51.5% of users use it compared to an EU average of 63.9%. Furthermore, the number of companies based in municipalities without a bank branch is also increasing: there are 255 thousand, 22 thousand more than a year ago.

In four years, 2700 newsstands, the numbers of Unioncamere, have disappeared

Moving on to the newsstands, it is the Unioncamere-InfoCamere numbers that process the data from the business register that take the photograph. In 4 years, Almost 2,700 newsstands have disappeared across the country, of which 2,327 were individual businesses. A deadweight loss of more than 16% (-18.6% considering individual businesses alone), with rates of variation even in double figures in many provinces, starting with Isernia, which saw over a third of the local units close, Trieste which records a -31.1%, Ancona which exceeds -30%. Only Bolzano and Sondrio, thanks to the opening of a new newsstand in the four-year period, see this type of business grow, while Oristano maintains all its 51 newspaper outlets. At the end of last September, however, newspaper and periodical sales points had around 13,500 locations, while in September 2019 there were over 16 thousand.

Fewer and fewer retail shops, according to Confcommercio’s analysis

Meanwhile, the reduction in the number of retail shops continues unabated. If last year almost 100 thousand retail trade activities and over 15 thousand street trading businesses had ‘disappeared’ in the previous ten years, in the 2024 count the total rises to more than 110 thousand and over 24 thousand respectively. The picture emerges from the analysis of the Confcommercio Research Office on business demography in Italian cities, carried out in collaboration with the Research Center of the Guglielmo Tagliacarne Chambers of Commerce. Concentrating the analysis on the 120 medium-large cities, the reduction in commercial activities is more accentuated in the historic centers than in the suburbs, a phenomenon that affects both the Centre-North and the South, until last year characterized – the latter – by greater commercial vitality. In the historic centers there are fewer and fewer traditional activities (fuel -40.7%, books and toys -35.8%, furniture and hardware -33.9%, clothing -25.5%) and there are increasingly more those that offer services and technology (pharmacies +12.4%, computers and telephony +11.8%), as well as accommodation (+42%) and catering (+2.3%) activities. (From Fabio Insenga)

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