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NJ marketing expert alarmed by string of retail store closures

New Jersey’s retail landscape is changing in the bleakest way possible.

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

An array of major chains are announcing the complete or partial shutdown of brick-and-mortar stores, and New Jersey locations are included in the mix.

In just the past week, retailers American Apparel, BCBG Max Azria and HHGregg joined the list of companies who can’t financially manage to keep any or some of their operations afloat. BCBG has not specified locations, but all four American Apparel and all three HHGregg locations in New Jersey will be no more.

Decisions to close shops are typically made after the holiday shopping season, but when the list includes major names such as Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears, industry observers can’t help but be alarmed.

“My goodness, it’s striking,” said Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, professor of marketing with Rutgers School of Business in Camden.

It’s no secret online retail is taking a chunk out of in-store revenue, and has been for years, but Kaufman-Scarborough noted the presence of online commerce has also changed the way people shop when they actually do enter a mall or shopping plaza. There’s no need to browse when all the research has already been done on a smartphone or laptop.

Kaufman-Scarborough said the downsizing of typical mall anchors such as Macy’s leaves the door open for more closure announcements in 2017. Macy’s locations in Moorestown, Voorhees and Wayne are on the chopping block.

“It’s very difficult for the smaller stores to attract customers to the end of the mall that seems somewhat deserted,” she said.

Chains with a heavy mall presence, such as The Children’s Place, The Limited and Men’s Wearhouse, are closing hundreds of locations this year.

According to Kaufman-Scarborough, New Jersey for years has had a problem with what’s known as over-storing: so much retail in too many areas, as evidenced by a lack of demand from shoppers.

“I really wonder if we’ll start to see smaller stores. Many retailers have smaller versions of themselves,” she said.

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