For several years, retailers have enjoyed the spectacle of affluent shoppers peeling off some of their stock market winnings to pay for everything from new wardrobes to PCs to kitchen renovations. But with the market correction and the slowing economy expected to crimp consumer spending, 2001 may be the proverbial morning after. Matching the 7% sales growth that the retail business rang up in 2000 "will be very difficult," notes Carl Steidtmann, chief retail economist for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "We had a boom, and booms don't last forever."

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