STATE OF BUSINESS: Plight Before Christmas

For many a worried U.S. retailer, it was the plight before Christmas. "Of course we're not ahead of last year's sales now," Bloomingdale Board Chairman J. Edward Davidson summed it up last week. "But with two extra shopping days this Christmas, we still have a chance to top 1959." For the year so far, store sales are barely even with 1959's record totals. The big test is in the sales that are made in the gift-buying stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas—usually 16% of the year's total. For most retailers, Christmas sales make...

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