Forces of Nature

As we approach the first of November, the question on every retailer's mind is, of course, how strong will holiday sales be this year? With as much as 40 percent of a jeweler's profits earned during the all-important holiday selling season, it's not a question to be taken lightly. It's also not a question that elicits an easy prediction this year. Economic pundits have thus far taken a fairly positive view, forecasting a modest increase in holiday spending over last year's figures. Given that last year was a reasonably good year, that's encouraging. But this year also brings many new variables to the equation. While the war in Iraq is nothing new, public attitude about it has shifted to the negative. Hurricane Katrina obviously will have an impact on stores in the affected areas, but the more widespread effect is reflected not only in higher energy prices and more expensive building

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