NEW YORK — For the 2002 holiday season, retailers are facing the unknown.

Business has become increasingly tricky to forecast and difficult to plan for, given this year’s mounting economic and political uncertainties, prospects of war against Iraq, declining consumer confidence and spikey sales patterns. In response, retailers are more cautious with inventories; less prone to take fashion risks; eager to build up safer home departments, and overall, often feel like they’re entering a tunnel and their headlights are dimming.

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