26 giugno 2009
The origins
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Confcommercio (The General Federation of Italian Merchants and Shopkeepers) was created in Rome on April 29th, 1945.

As part of the preparations for this event, two preliminary congresses were held in Naples in November 1944 and in Reggio Calabria in the beginning of January of 1945.

At its birth (as proclaimed literally in article 1 of its Status), the Federation was conceived as an “Organ of Linkage between the Associations making it up”. At the time only the new free Associations of tradesmen were part of it: 24 Provincials (of which 7 were Sicilians, 11 from the South and 6 from Central Italy) and 14 national category associations, for a total of 38.

What still had to be accomplished was the aggregation of the Associations of Northern Italy, headed by the city of Milan, and this was the topic debated in a special congress organised in the capital city of the Lombard region in September 1945.

In fact the Federation had asked for a recommendation of an exponent from the North to whom award the nomination of a member of the National Council.

For this reason, the confederal structure was only composed of 14 components (36 members were originally estimated) who had the task of expressing a provisional Committee having the same powers of the Council, composed of 5 members.

The election of the confederal President was postponed on April 29th.

Mediation and unifying actions between the Associations of Central and Southern Italy and those of the North were accomplished by Amato Festi, the founder of the Association of Tradesmen of Bologna.

Thanks to his direction ship, the Northern Associations also participated in the Congress – Assembly from the 14th to the 16 February 1946, summoned by the Union of the city of Florence.

The confrontation and sometimes even controversial debate was the definition of the relations between the provincial and category Associations. This lead to the launching of a modification on the Status which, in Article 3, predicted that the collection employment agreements, stipulated on a National basis, wouldn’t have had any power, if they were not ratified also by the single territorial Associations.

At the end of it the unifying spirit prevailed and the Associations of the North adhered to the Federation.

In this way a total number of 90 Associations was reached, including territorial Associations (64), and National (26) (9 territorial and 3 national had already adhered to the founders previously).

On the 17th February 1946 Amato Festi was unanimously proclaimed President of the Federation. 



The presidents
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Amato Festi (1946 - 1951)


The actions of the first president of Confcommercio, Amato Festi, lead to the accomplishment of the unification process of the Federation and to the consolidation of the representatives of the world of trade.

They were hard and difficult years, and the scars of the war conditioned every expression of the economical life of the country, and especially trade was burdened with the degenerations and distortions of the internal market.

During the war, tradesmen had been hit not only by the expansion of the black market, but also by all types of ‘opaque’ competitors which had developed in those chaotic years.

Following the closing down of the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, an entity created for economic and civil assistance of the harmed populations) on May 30th, 1947, many improper competitive situations emerged due to coops, the Municipal entities for consumer’s goods, the CRAL and agencies offering various assistances.

Neither can one forget the important role of the Farmers’ Union nor the creation of official price-lists entrusted in the hands of the Prefects.

From the pages of the newspaper "Corriere del Commercio", Amato Festi traced out a strategic graph of Confcommercio, identifying the guidelines of a commercial activity and the moralisation of the category. His ability of proposal was not limited to a continuous participation on the newspaper: his was also in a detailed presence among businessmen and on the territory: in the first year of his presidency he visited 42 provincial seats and 5 minor ones.

The first result of his activity was the adhesion of other 20 provincial associations and 13 national ones.

As early as 1946 the F.I.P.E. (the Italian Federation for Public Exercise) stated a profitable collaboration with the Federation, setting up its commercial sector and a process of gradual normalisation. 

By 1949 all the Associations of the Provinces (then 91) adhered to the Federation. In that same year, precisely on the 22nd January 1949, the first number of the “Giornale del Commercio” was issued.

Festi was unanimously reconfirmed President of the Federation on March 21st, 1948.

In the following years Festi’s commitment towards the organisational consolidation of the Federation was determining, and his development in terms of political valences and of international presence.

The first step took place in 1950, when the Foreign Trade absorbed the Federation, founded in Milan in 1947 by an important group of exporters.

What’s more, the confederal political view became also a supporter of the need to eliminate gradually the legislative, administrative and customs barriers, directing itself towards a liberal economic political view.

Signs of appreciation (especially following the Congresses held in 1946 and 1947 at the ‘Bocconi’ University in Milan) were given by the President of the Cabinet, the Hon. De Gasperi, who declared: "I have been admiring for a long time the work and conceptions of your Managers which exceeds category interests and which addresses especially the economic activities and interests of the Nation”.

Thanks to the accomplishment of the Federation, on the 31st October 1951 (Ugo La Malfa was Minister for Foreign Affaire) a ministerial circular freed the importation of nearly all the goods from E.U.P. (European Union for Payments). At the end of 1951 Amato Festi left the leadership of the Federation.

Festi was appointed “Cavaliere del Lavoro” a year later.


Giovanni Maria Solari (1951 - 1956)


The Genovese entrepreneur Gian Matia Solari relaunched the Federation’s commitment on a politically- unionist scale in 1951.

Solari’s strategy, of liberal inspiration, increased the representation of the Federation in the national trade-union universe.

His objective was not only to constitute a trade-union front which also included the federations of agricultures and industrialists, but also to bring to an end all the claims of the trade unions, such as the CGIL (Federation of Italian Trade Unions), lead by Giuseppe Di Vittorio.

In fact there was an increase in the contractual importance of the trade unions which reached a stipulation on the national contracts of the various categories being represented, with the value of "erga omnes" for all subscribed workers and non.

In this period, characterised by appreciated levels of economic development, a gradual liberalisation of trade with foreign markets was realised, with the result of an expansion in commercial exchange.

All this was possible thanks to the measures taken by Minister Ugo La Malfa ( these measures were also strongly shared by President Solari) who liberalised the importation of goods of all kinds from all types of penalties, allowing the occurrence of a "franco valuta" (free value).

A word goes also to the launching by the new Minister for State-Controlled Enterprises, whose institutions soon had deep repercussions on the national economy and its future developments.

Vast and important productive sectors started to operate in economic conditions assisted by the State and a new era of massive endowments of public capital in favour of industries and sectors retained strategic.

The consequence of all was the creation of an industrial and statalist ‘culture’, anchored towards choices and opportunities of a party politics nature, rather than the respect of the market rules and the pursuing of objectives of national economic interest.  


Sergio Casaltoli (1956 – 1971)


The president of the Union of Tradesmen of Florence was elected president of the Federation in 1956.

Sergio Casaltoli gave particular importance to the problems of the small firms, and his personal participation was constant in the assemblies and different appointments of the associative live of the Federation.

His direct contacts with the provinces of the entire Italian peninsula and with the categories re-enforced the associative grounds and stimulated the interest of many entrepreneurs.

The Federation’s policy, thanks to a period of prosperity and social peace, reached high levels of success and prestige, both on an organisational level and of political-trade union operativeness.

The commitment of the Federation in the regards of tourism is remarkable, confirming the strategic role of the restoration of the Nation’s economy.

A National Committee for Tourism was created in 1952, with the participation of hotel organisations, travel agencies, public services and art traders.

In 1959 Confcommercio proposed the constitution of an Inter-Federal Committee for Tourism, to which Confindustria (Italian Manufacturers’ Association), Confartigianato (General Federation of Italian Artisans and Craftsmen) and the General Association of the Italian Show Business, belonged.

In 1961 it was decided to modify the status which decreed the change in the federal denomination in “General Federation of Italian Trade and Tourism”.

In 1966 Confcommercio gave instructions to business regarding a new structure of services and assistance: the ENASCO institution, which will alter be recognised thanks to a ministerial decree of April 1967.

During the fifteen years of Casaltoli’s presidency the process of the regulation of licences for commercial activities was consolidated, which produced relevant consequences in defence of the interests of the commercial categories and of the re-confirmation of the values for a free economic market.  

Casaltoli’s present and the attention he dedicated to the defence of small firms resulted in an interest and a gradual approach to federal policies even on the behalf of small and large firms.

Casaltoli’s presidency came to an end in 1971.


Giuseppe Orlando (1971 – 1986)


In 1971 Giuseppe Rolando was elected President, a manager of Milan’s Union. Following the lines of his predecessors, he was concerned with the valorisation of the image of Confcommercio as a business organisation, and worked towards the re-enforcement of the potentialities of political policies and contractual power, and the organisational development. 

The requests expressed by the Federation gained importance on the Government tables, and in this way the regulations of the trade disciplines were reached, by means of a relaunch of regulation 426.

The regulation imposed the end of a chaotic period and normative confusion which created inconveniences to the workers and had outlived, in the market, dysfunctions and heritages of the post-war period.

The organic and articulated regulation 426, appeared to be up-to-date and was the answer to the businessmen’s aspiration, who were waiting for a new discipline on the mercantile activities and of the delicate mechanism of the issue of licences.

Under the direction of Orlando the Federation continued its examination and solution-finding of the difficulties of small distributions, not only of the impact with the new trade regulations, but also because of the appearance of the first large distributions. The dysfunctions of the transportation systems and trading and their relapse on the system were highlighted, and their interaction with the distribution world: in this period the first networks of associative distributive shops were set up.

New attention to the economic role of trade with the foreign market allowed Giuseppe Orlando to gain the Presidency of A.N.C.E., which also incorporated a pre-existing Association for Foreign Trade with Milan’s Union.

Confcommercio’s commitments in the regards of tourism were also strengthened, and in 1977 the International Market for Tourism in Milan, was launched, in which all the organisations were adhering to this sector, participated.  In the mean time, a macro-economic situation was looming up in the Country, registering the public debt with an increase, in the expenditure, which sometimes was out of control. Since no other remedies could be identified, it seemed necessary to appeal to an increase in the fiscal pressure. The General Federation of Italian Merchants and Shopkeepers in which was applied especially to sectors of the economic life, such as trade, which were prejudicially considered responsible of evasion.

The Vanoni Reform had also given birth to a non-positive and complex system which was also unmanageable and whose revenue was inferior ot that calculated, in conclusion. 

All these fast-moving events, in this spiral of fiscal policy, lead the Minister for Finance Vicentini, to decide that all shops had to install by law “cash registers”, in order to be able to make more ‘fiscal’ controls on the tradesmen’s business affairs.

President Orlando’s answer was very rapid, proclaiming the lock-out of many shops in the whole of Italy, and, notwithstanding the great success of such events, held in October 23rd and November 14th of 1985, Minister Vicentini was inflexible; Orlando understood that a complete victory would have meant a Government crisis.

Orlando’s policy continued to reinforce the image and the organisational abilities and the trade union presence of the Federation, which enforced its representation in the world of tourism and also extended it to that of the services, assuming the new denomination of “The General Federation of Italian Merchants and Shopkeepers.”

This denomination was later officially adopted during the presidency of Francesco Colucci, with some modifications in the federal status in May 1988. In 1986, while preparations were going on for the forty years of the foundation of the Federation, unfortunately an incurable illness hit Giuseppe Orlando who had to leave his place at Confcommercio, after more than 15 years of prestigious presidency.

During the period between Orlando’s death and the election of President Francesco Colucci the 40 years of Confcommercio’s activity was celebrated, through the event “Wellcomm 86”, held in Rome from the 12th to the 20th April 1986.

By means of debates, conferences and cultural activities “Wellcomm” faced the problems dealing with the Third World countries and its repercussions in the post-industrial economy.

“Orlando’s era” continued to survive in this ideal continuity, in which Francesco Colucci’s election matured.


Francesco Colucci (1987 - 1995)


Francesco Colucci, president of Milan’s Union, was elected President of Confcommercio on January 21st, 1987.

Colucci pursued the following objectives: the approval of the tertiary sector as a productive sector: the elimination of any kind of discrimination of a legislative, administrative and fiscal nature; the active participation in the transformation processes of society and the relaunch of the South by means of the realization of a unique tertiary programme.

Colucci’s commitments for the South of Italy produced immediately its fruits: as from December 1st, 1987, an important congress was held in the town of Sorrento, entitled “Project for the South”, which gave indications on the possible itinerates to relaunch the South by means of the valorisation of its cultural traditions and of its innate vocations on “tertiary economy”.

During the first phase of Colucci’s presidency the federation reinforced its representations with an increase in the number of firms adhering to it.

It must also be highlighted that the start of a process of renovation, strengthening and specialisation of the structures and the federal services, at all levels, by means of the realisation of a network of territorial and categorical services.

Another battle was won by Confcommercio in these years was the one against Pannella’s referendums, who proposed the liberalisation of licences and of opening hours of all commercial activities.

The organisational effort of the Federation and its capillary information campaigns on public opinion produced its effect.

Against the savage liberalisation proposed by the Radical Party, which would have produced devastating consequences on the distributive system, more than 15 million voters freely expressed there “no”.

While Confcommercio was preparing to celebrate its 50 years of activity, Colucci’s era came to an end and on June 20th 1995 Sergio Billè, entrepreneur and president of Fipe, was elected President, by secret ballot.


Sergio Billè (1995 - 2005)


On 20 June 1995, Sergio Billè, entrepreneur from Messina and President of FIPE (Italian Federation of Bars and Catering), was elected, by secret ballot, new President of Confcommercio. Since his first public statements, it became clear the main features of Billè’s political strategy: achieve the full legitimacy of Confcommercio as protagonist of the country's economic life and the assertion of the main role of the tertiary sector as the engine of the Italian economy.

Structural reforms such as public administration and tax system, the implementation of a modern law of trade and tourism, the emergency of the employment in south Italy, the crimes against traders and the finance for SMEs, was the priorities. During those years, different issues of particular relevance for Confcommercio, but also for the country, were discussed: trade reform, the simplification of the tax system through the sector studies, the framework law on tourism, the introduction of the reform of the labor market and old age pensions, the Basel 2 criteria for access to bank credit.

Under the chairmanship of Billè, Confcommercio became a key  interlocutor of the politically and economically world, even as the media and the public opinion. The Annual General Meetings, involving italians influential politicians and economists, represent an important event in the economic landscape and national policy. The Forum in Cernobbio, organized annually by Confcommercio since 1999, became an opportunity in which Italian and foreign entrepreneurs, economists, government representatives, parliamentarians, were invited to discuss national and international hot issues. Many information campaigns and awareness activities were organized: "Tax Day", "Crime Day”, “Euro Day”, "No Day" (initiative against the referendum on Article 18), "Play nice” (activities organized to respond to allegations made to traders on high prices after the introduction of the euro).

The presidency of Sergio Billè ended in December 2005, a year marked by important events such as the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Confcommercio, wich included a photo exhibition entitled "Workers Portraits” (in collaboration with the Museo di Storia della Fotografia Fratelli Alinari) and a celebratory Confcommercio’s stamp issued by Poste Italiane.


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Annali Dell' Economia Italiana - Dal 1861 Al 1970



Storia Del Commercio

Arturo Segre (Università Di Torino)

S. Lattes e C. Editori Librai della Real Casa - Torino-Genova (1923)


Lezioni Di Storia Del Commercio Tenute Alla Bocconi

Pietro Bonfante

Attilio Sampolesi Editore – Roma (1925)


Storie Settoriali - Il Commercio - 1.3. L'eta' Preindustriale

A. Budriesi - A. Tugnoli

Loesher Editore - Torino (1998)


Storie Settoriali - Il Commercio - 2.3. L'eta' Della Macchina

A. Budriesi - A. Tugnoli

Loesher Editore - Torino – (1998)


Il Commercio In Italia

Luca Pellegrini

Il Mulino

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