Here Comes Santa

After three tough years, U.S. retailers are dreaming of a greener Christmas

THE NEWS COULDN'T COME AT A BETTER TIME FOR hard-pressed U.S. retailers. Consumer confidence is strengthening. The cash registers have been ringing busily since September. A sense of optimism is in the air. As the all- important Christmas shopping season nears, the industry is predicting that sales could be as much as 5% above last year. In fact, this may be the best holiday splurge in three years.

A happy combination of factors seems to be putting shoppers in an expansive mood. Says Jack Schultz, president of the National Retail Federation: "For one thing, the election is over, and we're not...

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