Buy Low, Buy High

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CZECH OUT: A Tesco outlet in Prague

European retailers sure didn't have a holly jolly Christmas. The annual end-of-year shopping orgy can account for as much as 40% of a retailer's annual sales, but most of the tallying so far has left the big stores crying "Bah, humbug." And the bad news kicked in even earlier. British supermarket chain J Sainsbury last week said its same-store sales, excluding gasoline, fell 1.2% in the third quarter. Two months earlier, the company had declared a $72.5 million pretax loss for the first half — the first loss in its 135-year history. One of its food-and-retail competitors, Marks & Spencer, earlier...

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