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Shoppers purchase last minute at a shopping mall. After years of trouble, mall vacancies have declined slightly. - 

Jeremy Hobson: News this morning that The number of empty storefronts in U.S. malls is dropping, for the first time in four years. The real estate data company, Reis, said this morning that vacancies at shopping centers were down at the end of last year.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale has the details.

John Dimsdale: It's the first gain in shopping center occupancy in four years. Retail landlords have struggled since the recession. But toward the end of last year, they were able to slightly raise their rents.

Victor Canalog, the chief economist at Reis, says there was only four million square feet of new mall construction all of last year.

Victor Canalog: That's a thirty year low. So this constrained supply is helping give the sector time to recover given that demand is still pretty luke warm.

Canalog says it's discount retailers who are boosting demand: Dollar General just announced it will open 625 stores. But Canalog hesitates to call this a turnaround. Remember last month's announcement by Sears that it's closing 120 stores; and Gap is shifting its focus overseas. Plus there's all that competition from online sales -- putting even more pressure on mall landlords.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.