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ARLINGTON, VA-Overall total retail sales for August grew at a healthy 9% over the same period last year, outpacing July’s 8.6% growth, but the lingering affect of higher gas prices and two devastating hurricanes in the Gulf could impact those figures as retailers head into the holiday shopping season.

According to a report developed by Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Inc., consumer confidence declined in September for the second month in a row, indicating a tightening of spending as consumers cope with rising fuel and other costs just three months before the biggest shopping season of the year.

Spending concerns and worries over rising inflation could have their biggest impact on shopping malls catering to lower income customers as more upscale shoppers move to discount chains to get the most bang from their buck, the report by the Arlington-headquartered institutional brokerage, research and investment banking firm found.

But the impact may not be entirely positive. Sales performance at mall stores could influence leasing prospects, leaving mall REITS that have greater exposure to lower income shoppers feeling the pinch down the road.

CBL & Associates, Glimcher Realty Trust and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust are the mall properties that Friedman covers which have the highest exposure to low-income consumers. The Mills Corp., Taubman Centers, and Westfield Group have the least exposure, the report says.

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