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Sure, we might be facing one of the most difficult economic downturns in modern history, but consumers are still buying dog diapers, pet food cookbooks and orthopedic beds for their animals at PetSmart, according to Barron’s.The retailer’s same-store sales rose 4% in its most recent quarter, while earnings were up 16%. And Americans are on track to spend $45 billion on their pets this year, up 5% from 2008.We wondered if Petco was having the same success as PetSmart, but we forgot that the retailer was taken private in 2006. The chain is opening its 1,000th store this year, though.Is this sector, unlike electronics, one that can support two major specialty chains? Or will the Wal-Marts of the world figure out a way to control this sector?

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