Good news from the shopping centers … really

Better times ahead for neighborhood shopping centers?

Life hasn’t been much fun for retailers since the start of the Great Recession. But a new report indicates that retail sales are not only stabilizing but may be on the rise.

That’d certainly be good news for the economy and the commercial real estate industry. There are a lot of developers and brokers who’d love to get back to work arranging new retail projects.

According to a recent report by the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales this February are expected to show an increase of 2.5 percent to 3 percent when compared to the same month one year earlier.

These numbers are nice to see. Consumers open their wallets when they’re more comfortable in the economy. At least that’s the hope. It could also be that consumers simply need to buy new things because they’ve resisted the lure of the shopping malls for such a long time.

But let’s focus on the positive.

According to the council, children’s apparel sales rose by more than 10 percent in February while the sale of men’s clothing jumped by nearly 7.5 percent.

That’s usually defined as nonessential spending. And it’s nice to see that increase.

We’re all tired of the ecnoomic doldrums in which the country has been mired, and it’s too easy to read too much into the retail sales figures. True economic recovery won’t come until unemployment falls. But for now, let’s at least enjoy this small bit of good news.

– Dan Rafter

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