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While retail sales gains remain the focus of the main course, economic agita simmers as grocers seek new ingredients to keep the pot steaming. Rising fuel prices and overall economic uncertainty are beginning to dim the rosy forecast anticipated a year ago by U.S. supermarket executives, whose overall optimism was more robust than the fortunes they foresee for the coming year, according to findings revealed in Progressive Grocer’s 80th Annual Report of the Grocery Industry. The great chasm of optimism last year — when nearly twice as many chain operators as independents foresaw sunny skies ahead — appears to have closed even as overall supermarket sales rose 3.1 percent (compared with 3.8 percent last year), pushing total sales over the $6 billion mark. However, some of that growth was derived from new stores opened in the past year, the total for which rose 1.3 percent, with per-store sales climbing 1.8 percent.
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