Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced Monday that her office tallied 188 vacant storefronts on the iconic thoroughfare, thanks to volunteers who helped survey storefronts along the avenue's entire span in Manhattan last month.


Retail experts cited several factors hindering the industry: people purchasing items online rather than in brick-and-mortar shops, demographic shifts that have flooded areas with newcomers who eschew former mainstays, and a rental market in flux.

"You're seeing the highest vacancy [rate] in Manhattan, at least, in history," said Scott Plasky, a retail specialist in Marcus & Millichap's Manhattan office. "They have opportunities to rent those spaces. There are tenants that want to be here: this is New York. But these guys either are unwilling or unable to lease at what the marketplace is telling them they're worth."

Plasky said some landlords are clinging to outdated expectations of how much rent they can collect because retail rents rose 90% in Manhattan between 2012 and 2014. They have since fallen nearly 21% as the retail industry continues to shut stores across the country, he said.

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