Idaho-based Albertsons closed 43 Houston-area stores earlierthis year. That along with closings from several other nationalchains, including Kmart and Service Merchandise, account for thebackslide. "This is what we were waiting for," Richard Zigler,director of research at Houston's O'Connor & Associates

Zigler believes the impact of the closings is "not that bad" andexpects the retail market to post positive absorption numbers bynext quarter. "We anticipate that the months ahead will bring aheadbetter times," he said in the latest Houston Retail PerformanceUpdate. "While some of these abandoned locations may stay dark fora prolonged period, the big-box players appear relatively healthy.After all, it is this strength that rendered many of the outgoingstores superfluous."

Zigler is quick to point out the closings were not indicative ofa soft Houston retail market. Albertsons was driven out by itslocal competitors, he says. Of the 43 stores that closed, nearly 30were scooped up by the remaining giants of the Houston grocerybusiness, Randall's, Kroger and H-E-B. He's also quick to point outthat the Kmart and Service Merchandise closings were due tonational not local problems.

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