Retailers’ troubles ripple across the nation

In the world of shopping centers, strip malls and the cities that house them, a closed Ann Taylor here or an out-of-business Circuit City there might not matter much.

But the timing and immensity of the current downturn in retail is dire, and not just for the employees who lose jobs, the company shareholders and the shoppers who no longer can buy from their favorite stores. Cities — entire regions, even — that boomed as Americans shopped till they almost dropped for more than a decade are struggling mightily because spending has almost slammed to a stop.

The resulting store closures (150,000 are expected this year), steep declines in sales taxes collected by cities and states and the plethora of empty buildings are wreaking havoc on budgets, wrecking town center plans and ruining dreams for revitalization.

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