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INDIANAPOLIS-Executives at Simon Property Group are not intimidated by recent store-closure announcements by retailers, though they said during their fourth-quarter conference call that they could see above-average vacancies. “Demand for space for retailers continues to be solid, but we expect to get more space back than in recent years,” said Chairman and CEO David Simon.

Simon stressed that most of the closures, like those by Liz Claiborne and Talbots, are mainly due to the shutting down of a spin-off concept that isn’t working, though he acknowledged the closing down of all US Bombay Co. stores and Ann Taylor’s paring back of 117 units.

He also said that chains like J. Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch have inquired about future vacancies in their expansion efforts. Said President and COO Richard Sokolov: “There are several retailers that really look at this as an opportunity.”

Problems in the economy don’t seem to have greatly impacted Simon. The company’s FOO rose 12.7% from last year’s fourth quarter, hitting $507.7 million, while sales per-sf in its regional malls was up 3.2%, to $491.

Simon’s net income did drop 44.8%, to $112.9 million, but that was due to a one-time write-off on a master-planned community in Phoenix that was under development. The company owns 379 malls and other retail centers throughout the US, Europe and Asia.

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