Business: Business: The Christmas Consumer as Scrooge

IN Knoxville,Tenn.,free buses with red-suited drivers carry shoppers from free parking lots to downtown department stores, five blocks away. In Cincinnati, retailers offer "breakfast with Santa" and let kiddies choose between a black St. Nick and a white one. To seduce the shoppers, stores across the U.S. are resorting to unprecedented gimmicks and highly unusual pre-Christmas sales on everything from housewares to Teddy bears.

For all this attention, the consumer has turned into something of a Scrooge. Even The Salvation Army is having trouble prying dimes out of him. In department stores, cash-register tapes for the Christmas season are running scarcely above...

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