Another Bleak Sign for Retail – 100% Vacant Prime Plaza in Palm Harbor Florida

In this video I show a 100% vacant prime location plaza on US 19 in Palm Harbor, Florida. Sadly the current depression is breaking many small businesses which is having a negative effect on retail centers throughout the United States.

CIT Group Failure Will Effect Over 300,000 U.S. Retailers

CIT Group Inc., the century-old lender that hasn’t been able to persuade the government to back its debt sales, says its demise would put 760 manufacturing clients at risk of failure and “precipitate a crisis” for as many as 300,000 retailers.

A collapse would ripple across the “small and medium-sized businesses who rely on CIT to operate — to pay their vendors, ship goods to their customers and make their payroll,” the New York-based lender said in internal documents obtained by Bloomberg News that make the case for its importance to the U.S. economy. CIT spokesman Curt Ritter declined to comment on the documents…

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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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Circuit City Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Hurt by competition from Best Buy Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and by pressure from the downturn in the economy that led shoppers to cut back on discretionary purchases, the 59-year old Circuit City Stores Inc. on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Richmond, Va.-based consumer-electronics retailer, which has seen its shares tumbling 99% from a 52-week high of $8.24, negotiated a commitment for a $1.1 billion debtor-in-possession revolving credit line that will allow it to pay vendors and operate business as usual. The credit line replaced its $1.3 billion asset-based credit line provided by the same lenders. Circuit City said in the filing, made through the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, that it plans to emerge from the bankruptcy protection in the first half of 2009.

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Home Improvement an Inch at a Time

A new TV ad for Lowe’s (LOW) features a family getting a copy of a key made as the gravelly voice of actor Gene Hackman reminds viewers: “At heart we’re still a neighborhood store.” It may seem odd for a retailer with $48 billion a year in sales to be promoting a service for which it charges $1.47. Then again, no job is too small in the battered home improvement industry these days.

The housing bust is hammering Lowe’s and archrival Home Depot (HD) hard. Riding high on the real estate boom, each doubled its number of stores since 2000. Now both are seeing sales dive as falling home prices and rising gasoline costs gnaw at consumer confidence. On May 19, Lowe’s reported sales at stores open for at least a year fell 8%, while earnings declined 18%. The following day Home Depot said its same-store sales dropped 6.5% and earnings plunged 64%, due to special charges related to store closings.

With their home-equity lines of credit lines exhausted and home values shriveling, Americans have cut way back on the big-ticket projects, such as remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, that used to ring up hefty sales for the chains. “Those multi-thousand-dollar projects just aren’t there,” says analyst David Strasser, who follows the companies for Banc of America Securities (BAC).

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‘Everything Must Go’ at LNT Store Closings

Linens ‘n Things has scheduled a May 29 auction for the liquidation rights to the approximately 120 stores it will close in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, even as creditors line up to be heard over the auction procedures and agency agreement.

In the meantime, the troubled 589-unit retailer reports that a “significant number” of vendors have resumed shipping on terms, although the company has yet to identify which suppliers and under what terms. Those moves come as suppliers are still assessing LNT’s debtor-in-possession credit facility and, in some cases, are seeking credit insurance or factoring for those shipments.

Speculation continues to fly concerning potential bidders for LNT’s total business. Late last week an executive for GHCL, the Indian parent of Dan River — which is now in liquidation — flatly denied that that company was in talks to acquire Linens ‘n Things. The same media reports from business outlets in India identified Welspun as another possible suitor.

“This is a rumor only,” B.G.K. Nair, general manager of corporate sales and marketing, GHCL, said from the company’s corporate headquarters in Noida, India. We are not [seeking to acquire] them.”

It was GHCL chairman Sanjay Dalmia who broadly hinted two years ago that his firm might be interested in an American specialty textiles retailer with all the attributes of LNT. It is unknown if there were ever any serious discussions.

Welspun USA coo and evp Charles Gaenslen said, “We are not in the market to buy LNT or any other U.S. retailer.”

Reports through the industry and financial circles suggested that LNT’s controlling shareholder, Apollo Management, might be continuing to buy up the retailer’s debt paper in a bid to improve its standing against other secured noteholders. Those reports could not be confirmed, although that is similar to the strategy used by financier Carl Icahn in his successful 2005 bid for WestPoint Stevens out of bankruptcy. (His victory, however, is still being challenged in court years later by other secured creditors.)

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In one town, local hardware stores outlast Home Depot

BRATTLEBORO, Vt.: When a Home Depot set up shop across the street, Fireside True Value hardware store owner Wayne St. John knew it would probably take some of his customers away.

He and his brothers, who’ve operated their store for 35 years, had heard the stories about big box stores and their low prices driving competitors into the ground.

So the store stuck to what it does best — good customer service, competitive prices and a willingness to stock that hard-to-find part folks never seemed to find at the big building with the orange roof.

Four years later, it’s Fireside True Value that’s still standing.

“I’ve had a lot of customers come in and say ‘You guys put them under,” said St. John.

In truth, many factors played a role in the closing of Home Depot store No. 4552 and in the Atlanta-based home improvement giant’s decision to close 14 other “underperforming” stores whose annual sales averaged about $11 million, far below the $36 million desired by the company.

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