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It looks like a rocky year ahead for department stores.The bulk of them will start reporting their quarterly earnings over the next few days, and most in the sector aren’t expecting good news…at least until some time next year. “I don’t think we are planning for a quick recovery,” J.C. Penney CEO Mike Ullman said in one article.For his part, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren says he doesn’t expect an improvement until the middle of 2010.A Dallas Morning News report cites a prediction that department-store sales will dive 10.8% in February, on top of January’s 11.1% drop. There is also talk in that story about how the bulk of consumers, who have been veering away from department stores toward discounters for a while, might stay away from mall anchors permanently…even after the recession.Department stores have tried a lot of strategies in efforts to compete, from launching off-mall concepts to bringing in celebrity brands. Will this work in the long run, if the economy improves, or is more pain ahead regardless?

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