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Malls: A Slow Death Begins?

Retailers thriving in today's fragile economic environment (think discounters) are looking to expand, but they prefer shopping centers to malls. This fact, combined with the imminent store closings of traditional mall tenants like The Gap and Sears, likely means increasing vacancies in the nation's malls. At the same time, for the first time in 7 years, the average vacancy rate in U.S. strip malls has fallen. While forecasts for positive growth in retail remain intact, companies' willingness to close under-performing stores does cancel some of it out. And the general outlook for retail remains cloudy at best. [ChainLinks / Reuters]