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Mall Vacancies Reach Six-Year High as Retail Slump Batters Local Economies

More bad news for malls. According to this WSJ report, mall vacancies are at an all-time high.

Empty space in regional shopping malls reached a six-year high in the first quarter, adding further stress to regions being hit by a retail earthquake that is shaking up the job market across the U.S.

The vacancy rate in big U.S. malls increased to 8.4% in the first quarter of 2018, up from 8.3% in the fourth quarter and the highest since the fourth quarter of 2012, according to real-estate data firm Reis Inc., which studies 77 metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, neighborhood and community shopping centers in 41 of the 77 areas experienced an increase in vacancy during the 12 months ending on March 31.

The numbers show that bricks-and-mortar malls and shopping centers continue to be hurt by shifting consumer spending patterns, particularly the increasing use of online retail. Numerous department stores and other retailers that traditionally have been mainstays of shopping areas have been contracting or have failed.

Reis reported that retailers occupied 453,000 more square feet of shopping center space at the end of the first quarter than the fourth quarter of 2017, but that amount of “absorption” was the lowest for any quarter in more than five years. The completion of 712,000 square feet of new shopping center space also was “much lower” than average, Reis said.

“The first quarter tends to see the lowest activity,” the Reis report said. “However, this was an unusually slow quarter for retail leasing and construction.”