Retailers' Shelves Won't Stop Sagging Soon

With consumer spending picking up, retail inventory-to-sales ratios are starting to decline. But that doesn't mean retailers are about to go on a stock-building spree in the months--or years--ahead, cautions economist Richard B. Berner of Salomon Brothers Inc. Throughout the expansion of the 1980s, he notes, retail inventories soared to unprecedented levels because of an explosion in retail outlets--in response to the surge in consumer spending after the 1982-83 recession, favorable tax laws, and the ready availability of financing.

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