February 21, 2011
Bankruptcy Judge Clears Borders Store Closings
It's official. Borders will be closing 200 of its superstores throughout the nation, including 35 here in California. The doomsday list includes the Pasadena location, the Century City Mall store, and the Howard Hughes Center store.
Call me a cynic, but I've been sensing the demise of brick and mortar bookstores for years. Paying sticker price plus sales tax is rarely necessary anymore, as Amazon, the online demigod of retailers, has been able to cut its margins razor-thin and quickly gobble up huge portions of the market. They won me over when I searched a favorite author to find out whether his new book had been published, and found not only that the book had been published a week earlier, but Amazon was selling it at half the MSRP.
Borders is the first to fall for good reason - an anachronistic business model and poor local management. Borders only entered the online sales market in the last few years, long after Amazon and Barnes and Noble won the loyalty of most online customers. They invested in huge DVD and music displays just as the world went digital. Management seems to place a minimal focus on customer service. I have no particular ire for Borders - I'm simply not surprised to hear of its cashflow problem.
Brick and mortar bookstores will play a role in the American economy for the foreseeable future, if a shrinking role. There's just something special about the smell of new books, and the chance to pick up and thumb through titles before you make a purchase. Unfortunately for Borders, there's also something special about the chance to buy books that haven't been thumbed through by 20 people already.
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