Gloom about the Consumer Boom

Shakespeare wrote that "to sell a bargain well is as cunning as fast and loose," and it was precisely U.K. retailers' ability to sell that helped sustain the country's economy as much of Europe faltered. But last week brought troubling signs that the boom may be over, as electronics retailer Dixons warned that consumer confidence was "cracking" and joined several other stores in reporting dismal Christmas sales. Dixons' shares promptly plunged 20%; more worrying is that this may be a trend. New data by the British Retail Consortium show U.K. same-store sales growth flattening from 4% in October, to 2% in...

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