Retailers are looking forward to this year's back-to-school season with enthusiasm: a forecast by the International Council of Shopping Centers expects sales to rise 5.4%. "Layer on some fundamental improvement in the consumer economy, including some pickup in the pace of earnings growth, and we should see a strong 7.6% rise for July, continued strength in August with a 5.7% increase, and a moderate 3% rise in September, for back-to-school spending," says Michael P. Niemira, ICSC's chief economist.

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