Payless Shoes became the latest chain retailer Wednesday to announce store closures within the Garden State.

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Macy's is shutting the lights off at three New Jersey locations; Kmart is nixing four; electronics chain Hhgregg is eliminating its New Jersey presence altogether. And the list goes on.

But as these stores ring their final sales, creating major holes to fill, industry observers in the state claim this is not a retail collapse, but a retail configuration.

"Many of these major stores are investing in smaller footprint stores and/or discount stores," Archana Kumar, associate professor of marketing at Montclair State University, told New Jersey 101.5. "This will give them an edge when it comes to competing in the online marketplace because customers still prefer to pick up and return things in the store."

Kumar said it's important to note the potential increase in online-only retailers opening brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon, for example, is bringing a bookstore to Westfield Garden State Plaza in 2017.

More than 50 retail properties in New Jersey are listed online for sale or lease by RJ Brunelli & Co., located in Old Bridge. The group is employed by landlords to occupy vacancies, pre-lease a planned project, or represent chains to find sites for business.

Bill Lenaz, the company's executive vice president, said they're definitely seeing more vacancies than years past, but for as many companies that are downsizing or scaling back growth, there are just as many companies that can't open stores fast enough.

"Dollar stores — thriving in New Jersey. It's a race horse for some of these retailers," he said. "Pet stores still do well. Restaurants are still doing great."

RJ Brunelli is seeing less activity, though, in store openings from apparel and furniture companies, he said.

Despite a Whole Foods anchor and a compliment of Walgreens and Ultra Beauty, among others, Lenaz said it's been a struggle to fill a 4,700 sq. ft. spot at a shopping center along Route 9 in Marlboro.

"We'd like to have an apparel retailer or a soft merchant in there, and we can't seem to find a tenant yet. It's been a while," he said.

The biggest obstacle in addressing today's changing retail landscape, Lenaz said, is occupying the massive buildings left vacant by failed companies such as Sports Authority. There are only "so many Bed Bath & Beyonds and Michaels ... and Marshalls and Home Goods," he said.

When a store shuts down at Freehold Raceway Mall, it's seen as an opportunity to attract a different concept that will better meet the needs of shoppers, according to spokeswoman Debra Panzarella.

"It's important to note that retail is all about what's new and fresh," she said.

Zara, a clothing and accessories retailer, is currently under construction at the mall with a 30,000 sq. ft. store. In order to gain that highly-requested store, Panzarella said, three other shops are in the process of relocating in the mall.

The mall could not provide a list of recently-closed stores or upcoming closures, but clothing chains The Limited and Wet Seal are among the casualties.

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