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A new report from Retail Forward suggests that the short-term outlook for consumer spending has modestly improved, owing to the coming of Spring and the imminent arrival of income tax refund checks. "The first wave of tax refund checks, with amounts that are tracking significantly higher than last year, appears to be lifting some of the caution that has persisted in recent months," said Steve Spiwak, an economist with Retail Forward.

Greater improvement on the spending side seems to be seen among middle class households, with affluent households being a little more conservative in their spending projections.

According to the latest Retail Forward Monthly Shopper Update Survey, there also appears to be evidence that many consumers are sticking with New Year's resolutions to eat better and are keeping healthy food options top of mind. However, many consumers told Retail Forward that there remain obstacles to better eating, such as price and taste; convenience also reportedly continues to be an important factor in how people make their food choices.

More than half (57 percent) of respondents agree that they are "consciously buying healthier foods, and many indicated they would eat healthier foods more often if they were less expensive (52 percent), easier to prepare (37 percent), or tasted better (37 percent).
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