A year ago it was plain to see that the U.S. retail sector was in turmoil, but now it's much harder to characterize. Consumers are adding to their spending, but they're doing so quite slowly and with extreme caution, retail experts say. Adding to the confusion, different types of consumers are spending differently, with high-income shoppers feeling far more confident. Consumers who earn $75,000 per year or more have noticed the rebound in the stock market and are feeling better about their own economic prospects. Lower-income consumers, by contrast, are really constraining their shopping behavior. As a result, customers are still heading to low-end stores looking for bargains. Yet shoppers are also boosting spending at other retailers. Data and executive commentary at retailers from Best Buy to Saks have sounded increasingly confident about recovery.
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