‘‘We are down about 20 percent from last Christmas season, and this is a rich area,’’ said Lucia Ruffini, a salesperson in the Pandemonium boutique in Rome’s upscale Parioli neighborhood. ‘‘Let’s hope for the (post-Christmas) sales.’’
Some shoppers, like Omero Petrocchi, have been doing their homework all year. ‘‘There are sales, super sales, discounts, super discounts and nothing more. So where I see I can spend less, I snatch (gifts),’’ he said while browsing on Rome’s chic Via Condotti, where some of Italy’s most famous designers have shops. ‘‘Then I put everything in the closet, so we already have it all for next year.’’
But in Paris’ upscale Galeries Lafayette department store, discounts were almost nowhere to be found, as shoppers buzzed around a giant Christmas tree in the store’s famed central cupola. A handful of clothing racks and Christmas decorations were marked down, but there were no sales to be had in the bustling toy department.
The lack of pre-Christmas sales is pushing some Parisian shoppers across town to the workshop of a non-profit group that fixes up used, donated toys.
‘‘These are toys at less than half the price of new ones that are practically new,’’ said Antoinette Guhl, co-director of ReJoue. But she said that price is just one motivator; many shoppers are also drawn by the fact that association gives jobs and training to the unemployed and is recycling toys that otherwise would have been tossed. ‘‘It’s a more responsible purchase.’’
Bryan Roberts, an analyst with Kantar Retail, warns that it’s hard to generalize about this Christmas in Europe and turnout has been ‘‘incredibly patchy.’’ For instance, in Spain, which has the EU’s highest unemployment rate at 26.2 percent, many were preparing for a more sedate holiday.
‘‘We'll have to see what the mood is among the family to see how much money we have to spend,’’ said Elsa Barona, 59, an executive with an international food company.
Barona said her immediate family — her son, daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend — was still trying to decide what kind of meal to have and whether to give one another gifts; both her son and her daughter’s boyfriend are unemployed. ‘‘As I'm divorced, it’s down to me to pay for myself and my close family group, so things are obviously going to be tighter than in the best years.’’
Victor Simpson and Patricia Thomas in Rome, Harold Heckle in Madrid, David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam contributed.