Business: Retailing's Ho-Hum Holiday

Fears of renewed recession cause a sluggish start for Christmas buying

Nothing would give the wavering U.S. economy more of a holiday spirit pick-me-up than an old-fashioned yuletide spending spree. The brief period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the most important time of the year for many retailers, who can often earn up to 50% of their annual profits during those four or five weeks. But with the 1980 Christmas shopping season almost half over, prospects are steadily dimming for the sort of year-end stampede that might help prevent the economy's slipping back into a slump early next year.

Surveys by both the...