NEW YORK — Teen retail executives are crossing their fingers hoping for a passing grade this back-to-school season, as the student body, and their parents, appear increasingly reluctant to spend.

Many retailers report a slowdown in early b-t-s sales and mall traffic and, just three weeks into August, some are already slashing prices. But with school days starting later in the year for some and a cooling trend in the air in many locales, they’re hopeful that the season will finish better than it started.

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