The 'frugal consumer' era could bring major changes to the US economy

This is the second in a periodic series on economic trends in the United States.

Along with usual adjustments that businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, are making to cope with the economic downturn -- elimination of optional expenses, more cautious inventory purchases, layoffs, etc. -- many are also having to plan for a stark reality.

More and more businesses are beginning to realize that it may take a couple more years, not merely a couple more quarters, for business to return to normal. And for some businesses, there is the possible scenario of customers never returning to previous or "normal" levels.