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Hauck and his wife have adjusted their inventory to focus on what people need. More baby supplies, fewer toys.

“Maybe they’re cutting back in other ways,” he said. “But they know they’re going to have a crib or stroller for many years.”

General merchandise stores, which include Wal-Mart and Target, reported flat sales in October after a modest increase in September.

But Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, reported its first quarterly revenue gain in more than two years at its branded U.S. stores. The retail giant says it did so by focusing on low pricing and by stocking popular brands and products.

The gain is a good sign for the retail industry and the U.S. economy as a whole. Wal-Mart’s core low-income shoppers have been particularly hard hit by unemployment, which has been near 9 percent for more than two years.

AP business writers Pan Pylas in London, Christina Rexrode and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.