Retailers and trade groups including the National Retail Federation say they are optimistic about a recovery this year, and NRF is predicting a 2.5% increase in sales this year compared with last year. Experts say the path may take some twists as continuing frugality combines with 18 months of pent-up demand. "As we continue to see signs of improvement throughout the U.S. economy in 2010, overall sentiment will begin to lift, making way for slight increases in consumer spending," said NRF's chief economist Rosalind Wells.

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