From The Malls,Tidings Of Comfort And Joy

Hallelujah! For the first time in four years, retailers' prayers for a bountiful Christmas were answered. Many were able to report sharp real sales increases that actually exceeded their optimistic forecasts (table). "We expected Christmas to be good, but it's been much stronger than we expected," says Clark Hinkley, executive vice-president at Talbots Inc., the $630 million women's apparel chain. It reported increases of 20%, before adjustment for retail inflation of about 2%, at its stores.

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