Shops Shut as Wind Goes Out of Sales

Store closings rise along with gas prices, foreclosures
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2008 3:59 AM CDT
Empty retail space is all that remains of a Bombay Company story at the Town Center Plaza shopping center in Leawood, Kan., Friday, Feb. 29, 2008. Around the country, mall centers are starting to feel...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Soaring gas prices and a still-boiling housing crisis are taking their toll on America's smaller retailers, with store bankruptcies and vacancy rates rising steadily as customers avoid impulse-buys that once fueled the industry's rapid expansion, reports AP. Vacancies hover between 7% and 8%, up from 5% just six months ago—and some analysts predict rates as high as 12.5% by the end of 2008.

Following on the heels of a years-long period of booming expansion, the industry is now digging in to weather the storm. "This is economic Darwinism," said one analyst, predicting retail bankruptcy rates will reach highs not seen since the 1991 recession, with stores like the Sharper Image and furniture chain Bombay Co. leading the way.