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ROME (Reuters) - Sales on the opening day of summer discounts in Italian stores slumped compared with last year, consumer group Codacons said, as shoppers struggle to cope with tax rises, recession, stagnant wages and unemployment.
Saturday's sales figures were down about 15 percent on average, Codacons said. Small shops suffered most, reporting drops of up to 25 percent, while malls and outlets recorded declines of between 5 and 8 percent.
Codacons said hot weather was partly to blame but also pointed to "the crisis in our country, which has reduced the number of families able to make purchases".
It said the only outlets to register even flat sales were high fashion and luxury boutiques, but added this was due mainly to purchases by foreign tourists.
Italian consumer morale hit its lowest in at least 16 years in June, and the real disposable income of families is lower than 20 years ago, national statistics office ISTAT has said.
The Italian economy has been in recession since the middle of last year, weighed down by austerity measures aimed at reining in the country's massive debt.
Codacons suggested shops should incentivise Italians by discounting sale prices a further 20 percent every Saturday from next week until the end of August.
Reporting by Catherine Hornby; Editing by David Hulmes