(For more retail coverage, click GlobeSt.com/RETAIL.)

BURLINGTON, MA-According to a market report by locally based Finard & Co., the retail sector throughout Eastern Massachusetts/Greater Boston showed significant strength for the 12-month period extending from the start of Q4 2004 through the end of Q3 2005. As retailers entered or expanded their presence, “retail bankruptcies and store closings fell to their lowest levels since 2000,” says Bob Sheehan, the company’s VP of research.

Among the more significant retail expansions are Lowe’s; Hannaford Supermarkets–through its acquisition of Victory Supermarkets–and Bank of America through its Fleet acquisition. With 32 locations in Eastern Massachusetts, Home Depot continues to dominate in the home improvement retail sector, but, according to the report, Lowe’s is beginning to close the gap. Home Depot’s area store count remained the same while Lowe’s added six units, taking its total in the area to 13.

Dick’s Sporting Goods increased its number of stores from two to eight to outnumber Sports Authority in both store count and overall square footage. Modell’s Sporting Goods entered the area with two units during the 12-month period and has added two more since the end of Q3 2005.

Despite new retail construction, Eastern Massachusetts experienced a net reduction of 688,000 sf during the 12-month period, according to Finard data. The area’s real estate inventory increased by 4.5 million sf, up 2.6% for the year, to reach a total of 176.5 million sf.

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