Retailing: Battle of the Discounters

From Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to Broadway in Los Angeles, the men who market the nation's goods were preparing for a knee-and-gouge brawl. On one side stood the avid discount sellers, who in the past six years have cornered nearly one-third of the nation's $14 billion-a-year department store trade; on the other were the old-line, fixed-price retailers. Hoping to juice up the sluggish trend in retail sales, each side is slashing into the other's territory as rarely before. In the process, the distinction between a discount house and a department store is getting harder to tell without a scorecard.

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