"I get backaches from waiting on these people.'' said a Dallas retailer last week. "If business was any better, I'd be in the hospital." The joyful complaint was echoed by thousands of retailers across the U.S. last week, as hordes of Christmas shoppers invaded their stores.

In Miami Beach sales were 6% above last year; in Los Angeles they were up 12% in some stores. Allied Stores Corp., biggest U.S. department-store chain (69 units), hopes to ring up $100 million in Christmas sales, 16% above last year. For the first time in its history Chicago's big Marshall Field had a...

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