A great mystery is about to unfold. The fourth quarter is coming, and while retailers, suppliers and other industry observers put on a brave face on their projections, nobody is entirely sure what to expect. There's not much new about this uncertainty. It's been this way since Sept. 11, 2001. Two things have come into focus since that awful event. For one, consumers have become much more value-conscious. In a recent report on the back-to-school season, which will still be relevant for the ...

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