Borders Closes Stores in 200-Plus Cities: What Lies on the Retail Horizon?
Borders Group's recent bankruptcy filing and announced closing of more than 220 stores nationwide seems to warrant a closer look at trends in book retailing.
"I've been in the business long enough to see very long cycles," notes Jack McKeown, who founded and served as CEO of Perseus Books before joining book marketing agency Verso Advertising as a consultant and director of business operations. Independent bookstores took a big hit in the 1970s with the rise of mall bookstores, McKeown says, only to morph into a new base of well-capitalized, larger "super independent" outlets (Powell's Books, Vroman's Bookstore, etc.) that created the model built out on a huge scale by Barnes & Noble and Borders in the 1990s.
Today, the book superstore model seems poised to go the way of music stores and video rental chains, though the rise of e-commerce may present less of a threat to physical booksellers than it did to music and video retailers and—by unspooling the long tail—may even aid them in some instances.
More Physical for Less
According to Brian Paeper, owner of independent Alias Books in Los Angeles, trends in bookselling, like those in other media markets, have become divorced from economic cycles. "It's a different kind of adjustment," he says. "It has to do with the book industry. It has very little to do with the economy. If you think it's the economy and you are waiting for the book business to come back with the economy …, [you're] sticking your head in the sand."
For Borders, the challenges were both industry-related/situational and Borders-specific, McKeown says. Borders paid the price for top-management turnover, a failure to grasp the power of the Internet and relying too much on music CD sales as part of its business model, he explains, compounding trends that have hurt the bottom line of book superstores generally.