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Investing the least, (hoping) to reap the most

Walking down Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the Corso Cairoli-Corso Cordusio alleys, the two major pedestrian streets leading to Piazza Duomo, the heart of Milan, a double row of flags waves at you. It’s the flags of all countries who will participate to Expo 2015. They are so many, so dense and so large, it is sometimes difficult to see the facades of the palaces and buildings. Not that you are missing that much, in terms of architecture and urban: very few of the buildings on Corso Vittorio Emanuele are of any interest, a bit better on Corso Cairoli-Corso Cordusio, yet these are not the best streets of Milan for architecture and history. Actually, they are but a seamless, continous sequence of shops and stores, fashion, lingerie, high-tech, children’s, with also bars, cafeterias, ice-cream parlors, a bookshop or two (and I wonder how they do survive in this futility fair..).

As the hundreds of flags waves in the wind that is sweeping Milan these days, you would expect to see plenty of Expo 2015 symbols, photography, drawings, mottos everywhere on windows and doors, leaflets and brochures telling you anything about the world’s major event this year – as there is no olympics and no soccer championship, no event can match the 6-month long Expo in Milan in terms of appeal, importance, flow of crowds…and flow of money. Money, yes: actually, that what seems to be in the very center – and heart – of shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, in this thriving city in Northern Italy. They are investing the least – if you want to know anything about expo, do not ask them, they would not know – but aiming at reaping the most, in terms of sales. And if that means hiring more staff and making them work longer hours…no problem! So long for aesthetics, welcome ground-low attitude. Keeping their store open in the evening and on Sunday, hoping to do more business, is themother of all strategies. And fortunes.

This is even truer in via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga, via Alessandro Manzoni, Corso Venezia, the so-called Quadrilatero della Moda, Milan’s Fashion District, home to all most known fashion brands, boutiques, stores, shops: just name one, whichever you want, you will find it here. All these streets are in the top list of the world’s most expensive streets.

Shops on via Montenapoleone will test new working hours in May: Monday to Friday evening closures will be extended to 7:30 pm, Saturday shutters will remain raised until 9 pm. The revolution will come on Sundays, when shops will be always open. If the May test is positive, it will go on like this for another six months.

La Rinascente, right in front of Il Duomo, the Cathedral, is planning to close one hour later: at 11 pm instead of 10 pm. In the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, Louis Vuitton will staff reinforcement from the rest of the world on a job rotation basis.

Months ago, the City Council issued the Covenant for Expo, to ensure visitors fair commercial services and quality performance in the six months of Expo. More and more shops and brands are joing in, 900 or thereabout shops, bars, cafeterias have signed the covenant thus far, more are expected to do in the final weeks before Expo 2015 starts.

A major point in the Covenant for Expo is prices: those who adhere promise not to raise prices to take advantage of the large influx of tourists. Actually, the Covenant comes a bit too late, as most prices have already been raised in the previous months, sometimes 3x their original level.

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