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Retail Execs See Long Downturn

The American economy is likely to deteriorate before it improves sometime in 2010, according to the chief executives of several large retailers, who gathered Monday night in New York for an annual dinner hosted by the investment bank Financo.

"I don't think we'll see growth until early 2010," said Mike Ullman, the CEO of J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500), which - like other retailers - recently suffered through one of the worst holiday seasons in nearly four decades.

Perhaps more troubling than the current economic downturn is a longer-term shift in consumer purchasing that some industry experts are predicting.

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