The retail sector's vacancy rates and declining rents still are a problem for the industry. According to Reis, average lease rates were $38.79 per square foot for the first quarter -- the sixth consecutive quarterly decline. Factors such as discount stores' expansion are causing rent declines to slow -- but not enough to help the industry overall. "Retailers have all the leverage in the lease negotiation, which makes it very hard for landlords to command higher rents," says Jim Sullivan with Green Street Advisors.

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