U.S. chain stores, reeling from the slowest holiday shopping season in five years, got some more bad news Sunday: 2008 will not be any better and could see changes that may shift the retail playing field forever.
As the National Retail Federation kicked off its annual convention in New York, two retail consultants offered negative outlooks for the U.S. retail industry, which has seen consumers pull back amid higher gasoline and food prices, a credit crunch and a prolonged housing market decline.
"It's anarchy," said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail, frequently repeating the word she used to sum up the latest results of her company's bi-annual shopper study.
"Americans cannot control the big things such as oil prices, falling home values, mortgage costs and rising property taxes, so they want to control the small things," Liebmann said. "They are watching what they spend on everything."