Brick and Mortar Retail Continues to Die…

Ok, the title is morbid, but it is the truth…

Before I moved to Pennsylvania, there was a Borders near me where I used to spend quite a lot of time. A lot of people that I went to school with did, too, partially because it was one of the only things to do in the town that was open late and didn’t require spending money if you didn’t want to (although I always tried to buy a coffee or something if I was going to linger for a while.) It was a friendly, comfortable environment, suitable for meeting with friends or catching up on some homework. People tutored there all the time and there were always Salvation Army people with their annoying hand bells* standing outside during the Christmas season.

Admittedly, I wasn’t a die-hard. I started to frequent Barnes and Noble after moving, simply because it was more convenient; it was only a few miles away (if that) while the Borders I used to go to was about 40 minutes away and the next closest still about 20 minutes away. Even so, it was sad to read about the store closings when the news that the business was filing Chapter 11 broke back in February or March.

In a nutshell, the company’s assets were sold off to a 3rd party, who took over the stores completely — everything from staffing and maintenance of the stores to the negotiation of leases. Initially, the company planned to only liquidate 200 stores and restructure the rest of the business to come out a stronger, profitable company by the end of August. That didn’t happen and as a result the remaining 350+ stores were liquidated in what seemed like record time, starting at the end of July and concluding during the week of September 12th.

Fun Fact: Simon Property Group, owner of many mall properties across America, managed many of the leases of the Borders stores that went out of business in the first round of liquidation. Store sizes from 10,000 sqft to 40,000 sqft and up. Wow, talk about a loss in rent income.

From what I saw, the company was very quiet about the future of the website during the store liquidation process, leading me to believe there were plans to restructure as an online-only business sometime in the future. After all, Linens and Things did it with success. They had a strong brand, developed over the past 50 years, to lead them in restructuring under new owners and emerging online-only, turning a profit again after only 6 months. Out of curiosity, I left a comment on Border’s Facebook fan page, but received no reply. A week or two ago, I visited the site to see that the animated banner on the front of the website featured a new-looking Kobo e-Book reader with a touch screen, similar to the new Barnes and Noble Nook e-Reader and the Amazon Kindle e-Reader. Hmm… further evidence of an intent to restructure?

Guess not.

Clicking on the “more information” link below the message will bring you to the Barnes and Noble website, where you can view a letter from the CEO of B&N. Apparently, B&N purchased Borders customer list, trademarks, domain name and other branding to use to transition the company and get some of Borders former customers. Smooth move, B&N!

Orders in process are now fulfilled by B&N and Borders.com is still “active”, but look what comes up:

Someone over at B&N is earning his/her salary! Could you imagine if Amazon jumped on this before B&N had a chance to do so? Such as gesture would have further crushed the spirit of brick-and-mortar stores.

Me, I have a Nook Color and purchase e-Books and e-Magazines, but I still think there’s something to going to a book store to browse and see what piques my interest. It is too bad the rest of the world doesn’t feel the same way, though. Hopefully it won’t get to the point where everything must be purchased online — unless there is a way to speed up the process of “instant gratification” and have items magically teleported as soon as you order them. (Hey, scientists… there’s a good R&D project for you!)