Department stores and specialty boutiques have been struggling for more than a year with a difficult economy, price deflation, a growing mass market and an increasingly picky consumer. The result was an ongoing debate throughout 2002 on what needs to be done to energize the concept.

Companies like Federated, Robinsons-May, Target and Wal-Mart have all taken major steps to alter traditional store formats in order to boost business. Federated announced plans to test its "stores of the future" concept, which will feature fitting-room complexes with seating areas for family members and friends, replete with monitors and even computer jacks for online use. Other technologies include larger signage, so that directories can be dispensed with; new junior concepts with the young men’s area featuring video games; snacks; a phone booth and cyber cafe, and simplified pricing with markdowns calculated clearly for consumers.

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