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    Wal-Mart Sees Surge in Diet, Comfort Products

    NEW YORK - In the first few weeks of 2002, health- and comfort-related items, such as diet products, exercise equipment and board games, experienced a surge in sales at Wal-Mart, Reuters reports.

    NEW YORK - In the first few weeks of 2002, health- and comfort-related items, such as diet products, exercise equipment and board games, experienced a surge in sales at Wal-Mart, Reuters reports. Diet food items such as Slim-Fast meal replacements were hot in grocery.

    Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, told Reuters the health-and-home purchases at Wal-Mart reflect a national trend, which began after the shock of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. With the war in Afghanistan, the economic recession and rising layoffs, the trend has continued.

    "In times of crisis and stress, people draw more into the home," Barnard said. "It's not only Wal-Mart, but almost every store that's strong in the home category is doing well."

    Some analysts expect the homebody trend to continue for demographic reasons, as more Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, enter their 50s, 60s and beyond.

    William DuBose, a Wal-Mart vice president and divisional merchandising manager for cosmetics and over-the-counter health and beauty care, said January sales of Slim-Fast meal-replacement drinks, and other diet products, including Wal-Mart's own Equate line, grew in the double digits.

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