As the Christmas shopping season reached its halfway point last week, Americans were already assured of waking up to an eye-popping pile of packages under their trees. Retailers are reporting sizzling gains in sales that by the end of next week will add up to the biggest Christmas ever. In line with the recent consumer spending spree (TIME, Oct. 23), department-store sales for 1972 are running 9% ahead of those for the previous year, with some large merchants ringing up gains of 13%. Discounting for the 3.4% rise in price tags caused by inflation...

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