Buoyed by a strengthening economy, the 2004 holiday shopping season helped many food retailers end the year on a positive note, according to a survey of supermarket operators and analysts polled by SN last week. Analysts said consumers were more free-spending this year because of the improving economy, and that may have contributed to more discretionary purchases at supermarkets. "We haven't had anybody report yet, but I suspect the economy was more on their side than last year because ...

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