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Nineties Vacancy Rates, Like Nineties Fashions, Are Making a Comeback

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The closed Staerk boutique in Nolita
The closed Staerk boutique in Nolita

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Fashion's Night Out, the Vogue-sponsored attempt to get reluctant shoppers back into stores, can't come soon enough. According to an incredibly depressing piece in yesterday's New York Times, Manhattan is rapidly being drained of retail operations. There are now more open storefronts in the borough than any time since the early '90s, and the vacancy rate continues to rise. Brooklyn and Queens aren't faring much better: Up to 10% of shops are currently empty, and one expert thinks the number will hit 12 to 15% by December. (The same expert also told the Times that "some neighborhoods have been ravaged by vacancy rates of 25 to 40 percent," which just makes us want to crawl back in bed for the rest of the day.)

While an Anna-helmed Fashion's Month Out might help, the real problem here is high rents, which haven't dropped in tandem with the economy. As such, Manhattan's most expensive places—like Fifth Avenue in the 40s, or Soho—have some of the biggest vacancy problems. It's gotten so bad that the government might intervene; already, the city has offered store owners workshops on how to renegotiate a lease.

The good news, such as it is: Apparently Times Square is still thriving. Times might be tough, but the M&M store soldiers on.
· Stores Go Dark Where Buyers Once Roamed [NYT]