Retailers planning to open stores this year may have difficulty finding space in the most desirable malls and shopping centers, industry executives said.

“For those of us who want to grow and have new stores, we’re having a very hard time finding the right locations,” Richard Baker, chief executive officer of NRDC Equity Partners, said yesterday during a panel discussion at Bloomberg’s New York offices. “We wait for other retailers to die and hope that we can take their space.”

Retailers are expanding again after store closings during the recession created record vacancy rates, said Sandeep Mathrani, executive vice president of the retail real estate division at New York-based Vornado Realty Trust. Thirty-seven percent of retailers plan to increase their store count this year compared with 21 percent who expect to contract, according to the National Retail Federation.