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The barricades placed after Sept. 11 in front of shopping centers are gone, but retailers continue to defend their turf.

"Life has gone on," said Kurt Barnard, president, Barnard's Retail Trend Report. While the worst appears to have receded from consumers' minds for now, changes in shopping patterns, buffeting retailers well before the attacks, persist.

"Just as before Sept. 11, some retailers did well and others faltered," he said. For example, stores where customers picked up what they believed to be bargains, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Kohl's and Target Corp.'s Target, continue to gain steam. Specialty retailers such as Gap Inc., Ann Taylor and Abercrombie & Fitch continue to struggle.

Tom Holliday, president, Retail Advertising & Marketing Association, said of Sept. 11's effects, "Some are permanent and some were not." Cocooning, called burrowing after the attack, is a long-term trend, with its increased emphasis on families and friends, driving sales in the home arena and entertainment.

"The emotional [effect] has dissipated," Mr. Holliday said, with improved consumer confidence and a rebounding economy. There's even a "glimmer of interest in apparel," a hard hit category, he said.

That glimmer is propelling some bullish hopes in the retail sector as the retrenchment ensues. Despite the events of Sept. 11 and the Kmart Corp. bankruptcy, Kmart partner Martha Stewart plans increases in her product lines, including a new catalog, Martha by Mail.

"We'll fill out the retail pyramid," she said, saying she plans product offerings for high, mid-tier and low-priced lines, "going from mass marketing to the top."

Ms. Stewart denied recent suggestions she has been talking with Home Depot, under pressure from No. 2 Lowe's Cos., a company differentiating itself by sprinkling its hardware mix with decor coordinates and its marketing with Martha Stewart-like home making tips.

contributing: hillary chura

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