Retailing: Down and Out Downtown

As the kaleidoscopic Christmas displays began to blink on at stores along the main streets of the nation's cities last week, the mood of the merchants was anything but festive. Downtown retailers are hoping for a holiday buying spree to offset a year of laggard sales and inflation-riddled earnings. Economists are hoping for consumer spending to be a strong force in revitalizing the economy. The prospects for the near future are not promising.

George Katona, head of the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, which regularly polls 1,500 consumers to check on their buying intentions, predicts that Christmas sales will...

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