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Italians, backed by the Catholic Church, aim to stop Sunday shopping

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Italians are fighting a government lift of regulations on business operation hours, insisting that the move will eventually hurt the small shops and values that have long been the foundation of the Italian business community. 

The deregulation, put into effect January 2012, removes restrictions on business operating hours, including Sundays and holidays. It is intended to stimulate competition in what has traditionally been a highly regulated market. However, it has been vehemently criticized by many shop owners, and the campaign against it has received a boost from the powerful Catholic Church. 

Campaign organizers argue that working on Sunday has forced employees to sacrifice "important values" and benefited big companies at the expense of small businesses.

Headed by Confesercenti, a leading retailers’ business association, and backed by the powerful Italian Bishops Conference, the campaign began at the end of November. Its organizers are hoping to collect the 50,000 signatures required to submit a bill to Parliament by April. The bill would give regions – rather than the national Parliament – the power to regulate Sunday openings. The goal of the bill isn’t to outlaw opening on Sundays but to eliminate “the excesses” brought by deregulation, say organizers.

If it gets the signatures, the bill would most likely be examined after the February election.

“People say: ‘It’s nice to have shops open on Sunday.’ But I don’t make extra sales on Sunday,” says Aldina Orlandini, who has run a clothing shop in a busy downtown street in Reggio Emilia, an affluent town near Bologna, since 1978.

Ms. Orlandini says deregulation hasn't hurt her business, since her store can count on a steady pool of customers. Still, she says, the measure is just wrong.

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