Retail vacancies reach record highs

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by TERESA YUAN / KING5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @TeresaYuan

KING5.com

Posted on April 23, 2010 at 6:49 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 23 at 8:20 PM

SEATTLE -- New numbers show more retail spaces are vacant across the country and Seattle is not exception.

Reis Research Inc., out of New York, says according to retail sector data, Seattle has not seen numbers like these since the "early 90's."

"It's tough to see this. It's very hard to see this," Bill Sheehan, Seattle Flowers owner told KING.

The store next to Sheehan's flower shop is closed and there are three large retail spots on his block that are empty in the 600 block of 2nd Avenue in Pioneer Square.

"We rely on foot traffic, like everyone does. So when the store next you go out of business, that means less foot traffic, and leaves less destinations for people to come to this block," said Sheehan.

As one drives along 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle you can't help but notice "for lease" signs almost on every block.

"A lot of these buildings don't even have tenants in them," said Sheehan.

According to Reis Research, Seattle's retail vacancy rate is 7.2%, an 18-year high.

"Historically we're in one of the worst economic downturns ever," said Al Scott, managing editor of Puget Sound Business Journal.

Scott says the good news is Seattle is below the national average --10.8%.

But, the research shows Seattle has more empty retail spaces than cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston.

Scott says there are some encouraging signs, like "Coming Soon" in some neighborhoods.

"I think consumers are becoming a little more confident, housing market prices is starting to stabilize, layoffs starting to dwindle. People are feeling some more optimistic, spending a little more that's going to encourage retailers," said Scott.

Scott doesn't believe the retail vacancy rate is going to get worse for Seattle.

He points out that rents are going down. Also, he says, Seattle has technology, aero-space and tourism industries that helps attract other businesses.

 As for Sheehan, he's turned to the Internet to drum up business on-line and he's joined local business associations to weather through this recession.

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