Vacancies for U.S. strip malls improve slightly

Tue Jan 7, 2014 11:30pm EST

Jan 7 (Reuters) - The average vacancy rate for a U.S. strip mall improved slightly in the fourth quarter from the third quarter, as consumer sentiment and retail sales ticked up, according to a preliminary report released on Tuesday from real estate research firm Reis Inc.

"Consumers appear to be acting more aggressively in response to improvements in the labor markets," the report said.

The national vacancy rate for strip malls was 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, down from 10.5 percent in the second and third quarters.

The report noted a growing rift between "have" and "have-not" markets as income inequality worsened. "In these 'have-not' areas," the report said, "demand remains enervated, rents continue to fall even as the macroeconomy and labor market improve, and new development activity is virtually if not completely nonexistent."

Reis said it expects this "two speed" recovery to continue in 2014.