Big Retailers Shrinking

U.S. chains announced roughly 3,000 store closings in 2011, down from the 5,000-plus announced in 2010, according to Retail Traffic, a trade publication that tracks retail real-estate trends. One result is that the nation’s malls and shopping centers are reporting near-record vacancy rates as anchor tenants retrench.

Sears (SHLD), the nation’s biggest seller of household appliances, is struggling. Department store chains like Macy’s (M) and J.C. Penney (JCP) are treading water, while apparel retailers like Gap (GPS) and Talbots (TLB) have fallen victim to changing fashion preferences.

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