PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Take a good look at the strip malls and "lifestyle centers" where U.S. consumers will be doing much of the Halloween shopping this year. Chances are you'll see the names of their dead inhabitants still burned onto the tombstone storefronts that house Halloween pop-up shops.Halloween is about as good a time as any to take U.S. retail's pre-holiday temperature, and the storefront corpses littering retail vacancy rates across the nation tend to chill things a bit. Even as the National Association of Realtors predicts retail vacancy rates will improve from 12% last year to 10% by the third quarter of 2014, some stores are still flatlining.
Stores closed: 189 The carnage started last year, but the clothing retailer of waning relevance closed the last of its surplus shops in 2013. It's hard to believe that consumers once cared about The Gap enough to protest a proposed logo change a few years back, considering they haven't been picking up the bags emblazoned with those logos in great numbers for a number of years. It's not that the company itself is doing so poorly. It's just that consumers have been leaving the brand steadily since just after its khakis-and-swing-dancing days of the '90s and flocking increasingly to sister shops such as Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta. With many of this year's Halloween revelers too young to remember or care about Brian Setzer's version of Jump, Jive an' Wail, it's little surprise they keep passing up a store that hasn't changed with the times -- despite its best efforts. (BKS)
Stores closed: 189 Nook? What's a Nook? Revenue from the once promising e-reader plummeted 20% this year, sales of the readers dropped 23% and digital book sales fell 15.8%. Overall store revenue also dropped 10% as competition from independent booksellers, Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) all continued to pressure the shop toward its increasingly frightening final chapter. The good news? Once you rip out all the shelves and that in-store Starbucks (SBUX), there's a whole lot of floor space for costumes.