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Despite signs of economic recovery, consumer confidence - the traditional bellwether of retail profitability - remains at record lows in many major markets. Battered by slumping asset values and soaring unemployment and weighted with debt, consumers would rather save than spend most of the time. The global economy may take years to recover fully. And even when markets finally regain their pre-recession strength, the new habits that consumers of all income levels have formed - doing more with less, trading down or doing without - will linger on.
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