Some retail stores are breaking sales records (if they have adapted)

Amazon has reordered the retail economy, but (some) physical stores are performing better than ever. The number of retailers is declining. Those that are succeeding are connecting their online storefronts to the instant gratification of their actual storefronts. "Many successful stores are now a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge."

Toys R Us has left the building.

All the Toys R Us stores are now closed, leaving approximately 28.6 million square feet of retail space vacant - and accounting for 21 percent of all store closures in the US so far this year. The companies leasing the vacant space left behind include Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Burlington Coat Factory, and TJ Maxx, as well as some non-retailers, like medical facilities and coworking spaces. If you have an indie toy store in your downtown or neighborhood, this could be a great time for it to expand its market share.

17 major retail chains are on The Motley Fool's 2018 death watch

Investment advisor The Motley Fool has flagged 17 major national retail chains as being at risk of failure in 2018, including giants like Sears, JCPenney, and Barnes & Noble, as well as some slightly smaller (but still large) chains, such as J. Crew, Payless, and Nine West.

As we have pointed out before, national retail chains often close outlets not because market demand for their goods and services has disappeared but because there is some problem with the company's overall fundamentals (such as adding new outlets at a financially unsustainable rate). When a chain store closes locally, it could represent an opportunity for one or more locally owned downtown businesses to make a play for the purchases local shoppers might otherwise have made at the chain. Want more information on how your downtown might take advantage of these potential opportunities? Contact us.

Yet another reason why downtown's the best place to eat.

Although Americans are spending more time dining out than in recent decades, it's getting tougher to operate restaurants. Here's one reason: Private equity has been pouring into fast food, fast-casual, and other chain restaurants, pressuring chains and franchisers to open more outlets. And, that's one more reason why it's great for independently owned downtown restaurants, whose personalities and location make them unique.

Credit Suisse predicts 25 percent of shopping malls will close by 2017.

Adding its voice to those of many other investment firms and economic advisors, Credit Suisse now predicts that 25 percent of US shopping malls will close within the next five years. To us, this suggests some significant opportunities for traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts to grab back some retail market share.

More entertainment coming to malls? Maybe not too soon.

Yet more evidence of big changes on the horizon for the shopping mall industry: A new report by real estate analyst CBRE says that, for the mall concept to survive, mall management companies must focus less on department store anchors and on small chains and more on food and entertainment. Only problem is that department stores - currently most malls' major tenants - usually have to approve significant changes beforehand, and their long leases make quick changes very unlikely.