Strip mall vacancies rose to their highest levels since 1996 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, vacancy rates at traditional malls hit levels not seen since 2002, according to research firm Reis. "Retailers are grappling with the implications of the housing and job market downturns for consumer activity, with the result that retail sector fundamentals -- occupancy and rent levels -- are being strained by anemic demand for space," Reis Chief Economist Sam Chandan said.

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