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When big retail chains close stores, it can be a blow or a blessing for small businesses near the shuttered merchants.

Many shoppers gravitate to a smaller store when one of the big players shuts down, says Aric Shlifka, the owner of Kiddles Sports in Lake Forest, Illinois. The demise of the Sports Authority last year has contributed to a 5 percent increase in business for him since then, and he’s noticed more demand for athletic shoes and bicycles in particular.

“I feel mass/chain store closings scare people, and make them realize how many jobs and tax dollars are lost and want to support the local retailers more,” Shlifka says.

As more shoppers shift online, stores have been suffering and chains have been cutting back. Macy’s is closing some stores. Sears Holdings Corp. reportedly plans to close another 66 Sears and Kmart stores, adding to 150 closings in April. Many of the store closings are in big malls, but in smaller strip shopping centers, hundreds have also been shutting down.

Some businesses can see their own sales suffer when a big nearby retailer that has been a shopper magnet disappears. But smaller retail competitors can pick up customers, and sometimes other businesses — ancillary or unrelated to retail — find opportunities in vacant real estate.

The retail remains of a shuttered store mean franchisees of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? often get contracts to empty out the chain stores, loading dump trucks with unwanted mannequins, shelving, racks, showcases and other fixtures and hauling it all away.

Corporate executives at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? are regularly in touch with big chains and often know in advance when stores will be closing, says Scott Perry, an account manager with the franchise. It can take a month in some cases to remove and cart away the items; franchisees have handled 150 truckloads from a closed Macy’s in Pittsburgh and 120 from a Bon-Ton in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Perry says.

James Williams, owner of a 1-800-GOT-JUNK franchise in Burbank, California, says that in removing the contents of a store, his company donates usable equipment like vacuum cleaners to charities and takes furniture and fixtures…