When JC Penney, Kohl's and Macy's warned earlier this week that sales were slowing in the retail sector, those mundane names never qualified for coverage on the nightly newscasts. The networks were waiting for a retail bellwether with pizzazz: "One of my favorite economic indicators," CNBC's Trish Regan called it, when Starbucks, the gourmet coffee chain, announced a drop in customer traffic this fall. Explained Regan: "If people start to scale back, they will cut back on the little things--even those addictive lattes." So both Regan on NBC and Neal Karlinsky, reporting from Starbucks' Ground Zero in Seattle for ABC, got to cover the prospect of a slow Christmas shopping season using a cuppa Joe as their hook. Commented Karlinsky: "That high priced cup of coffee in your hand may say more about the health of the overall economy than your taste in beverages.
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