Borders filed for Chapter 11. The company isn’t going out of business; it’s reorganizing, similar to what K-Mart did. If it can’t make a profit, then it likely will go out of business, like Circuit City. Anymore than that–such as how this happened–is a simple Google search away. Most everyone has given their interpretation of events leading to this point, and most are similar. With this filing, two hundred stores are closing.
Borders 165, my local store, is one of these.
It shouldn’t be. The store is profitable, an anchor store in a busy Westfield mall. They’re a casualty of their own good fortune.
A stipulation of the loan from GE is that leaseholders all have to renegotiate to keep the stores open. High rents were one of the biggest problems Borders had. Borders 165, though, had little reason for Westfield to want to renegotiate. If the numbers I heard mentioned were correct, 165 had a rent of about $1 per square foot. Why would they renegotiate that?
Professionally, will this affect me? I’m uncertain. It will be 200 stores fewer for Penny Press to sell magazines, but for puzzles, that might be a small number. I won’t know until the company meeting sometime in March. I’d be surprised if Borders gets no mention. As for affecting me otherwise, I’m not yet anywhere near being published. But I do keep an eye on how this is affecting the publishing industry. Or, at least, I try to.
Personally, I’m heartsick.
Closing Borders 165 will leave me with three bookstores in the immediate area. Penny’s Used Books, which is a nice enough store, but it’s a used store. Most of the sci-fi/fantasy section I’ve either previously read, or I donated. Collected Stories, an independent bookstore that has new, used, and collectible books. The store is closed by the time I get out of the house to go anywhere. The last store in the area is Barnes and Noble.
I’m not a fan of Barnes and Noble. If I’m looking for anything outside of SF/F, it’s lumped together in Fiction. Except Romance, Children/YA, and reference/nonfiction. I go to B&N only when I want a book right away, and Borders doesn’t have it in stock. I’m not impressed with the cafe, either. The seating area is tiny and cramped. The food is often stale, and the drinks barely adequate. The cafe workers tend to be college/high school age, from what I can tell, that are more interested in gossiping with themselves. The B&N booksellers come across as snooty and elitist. Maybe they’re not, but they aren’t very personable and welcoming. About the only way I’m likely to go to B&N instead of ordering from borders.com is if they hire any of the 165 staff.
The loss of the staff is what makes me and Rob the most heartsick. Yes, we like Borders, but we go to the store because the staff have become friends. In the five years since 165 opened, I’ve come to know most of the staff by name, and recognize the rest. They all know me to be a regular customer as well. Rob and I will stop by the store every Friday and Saturday nights, and we will spend several hours there talking with the staff. We enjoy their company.
Because we spend so long talking with the staff, we usually buy more. I’ll start out with the intention of buying a mocha, or other coffee drink, but before we’ve left the store, I’ve often bought a book or magazine that I’d originally forgotten about, or decided against, then changed my mind.
Since the store’s gone into closing mode, yes, I have taken advantage of the sale. I’ve bought many books, several that I’d intended to buy but hadn’t because my to read pile takes up most of a bookcase. now I have enough to fill a second bookcase. I bought somewhere around $500 worth of books and notebooks.
Would I have done this without the sale? Eventually. I wish I could have. The 165 staff doesn’t begrudge people coming to spend money on books. It’s that so many came only for the sale, and not before when Borders could have used the help. To add insult to injury, many people are asking when the discount will go higher than 20-40%, and when the store will close–probably to try to figure out the best time to get the greatest discount.
These people are being unapologetically mercenary. A common comparison is that of vultures, come to feed on the carcass. To make matters worse, they’re trashing the store. At the end of the first sale day, the closing announcement said, “If you’re not interested in the book you’re holding, find a clean spot on the floor and throw it there.”
Normally, the announcement is to bring books to the Information desk to be reshelved.
Rob and I went to the store around 2:00 on Saturday. We’d intended to go in, buy some books, and come home for the rest of the day. We saw the staff and the mess, and the vultures, and we ended up staying until minutes before close. We wanted to support our 165 staff.
We’ll likely do the same Friday.
We’ve been loyal customers to Borders 165 since it opened about five years ago. We will be loyal customers until the doors close for the final time. After that, our trips to Borders will be fewer because we won’t be able to drive the 15-30 miles to the next closest store. Not as often as we do going the five miles to 165.
Borders has been criticized for not telling the staff of the closing stores. Many found out online, some through Facebook. Some found out when the liquidators showed up at the store. I’ve seen posts online that the company legally could not inform staff of the closings. I’m uncertain of the validity of this claim. True or not, I don’t think it’s the worse Borders did. That was the email sent thanking their loyal customers.
I’m a loyal customer. Don’t thank me. Thank the Borders employees. They made me a loyal customer.
Annie, Sarah, Emily, Marci, Donna, Kathy, Andrea, Dennis, Matt, Christine, Brendan, Susan, Carol, Gina, Jamie, and all the rest–We’re going to miss you.