RETAILING: Much Better Late Than Never, Santa

It appeared to be one of the biggest postholiday buying crushes ever. Shoppers crowded stores across the nation, scooping up bargains and providing some extra year-end cheer to beleaguered retailers.

Well into the December shopping season, it had looked as if the ghost of Christmas 1974 would be haunting merchants for many months to come. During the last full week of shopping before Christmas, nationwide sales were no better than even with the week before. What was worse, in an industry that has become accustomed to smashing year-to-year increases in holiday buying,...

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