The Demise of Borders Book Store

The Demise of Borders Book Store

Wake up and smell the coffee! There was a cultural shift while you were sleeping, Borders.

Borders BooksBorders Book Store had more than 1,200 stores in 2003. Now they’re closing the remaining 399 and the net effect is nearly 11,000 employees losing their jobs. What went so wrong?

Is it another casualty of the Internet era? Not exclusively.

Business is business.

Borders hasn’t made a profit in five years.

Borders was best known, in the early days, for their awe-inspiring collection of books and wonderful atmosphere.  Their gigantic inventory was possible because the superstores on average were 25,000 square feet of prime real estate. Costly.

But, that’s what people loved. It was a great place to browse books, relax, drink coffee and squeeze in a nice little break. Oh, and buy books and magazines. (Buying actually became an afterthought with most customers. It’s the experience they went there for, primarily.)

However, a group of execs high up on the corporate ladder, made the decision to clear out sections of books to make room for DVDs and CDs.  Then they cleared away even more area to make room for “PaperChase” (i.e. product line of stationary supplies). Later they closed all of their DVD and CD departments across the board.

There were a lot of poor decisions, all on the executive level. No input from the stores was accepted. (Not smart!)

Did Borders forget how to be a bookstore?

They took their eyes off the ball. They stopped focusing on what their customers wanted and instead focused on expanding – seemingly for the sake of expansion. It all made little sense.  They treated the Internet like it was a passing fancy and tech toys (like digital readers) as though they were pocket protectors. Were they ever wrong!

Borders failed because they:

  • Ignored the massive move to digital formats in books, video and music
  • Dismissed the power of the Internet and its massive target market
  • Were too late to market with their  e-reader  (Barnes and Noble didn’t wait too long)
  • Outsourced their online store to super competitor,
  • Had revolving door management problems
  • Missed the mark with Borders Rewards campaign (frustrating their customers further)

Borders is doing one thing right today. They are convincing everyone that the world has changed and so has business.

Barnes and Noble seems to have survived, but they may very well be next. Super book stores may be a dying breed giving in to the smaller, more adaptable, independent shops. In these town and country book shops, the owners have a real love of books, work in the store themselves, and hire friendly, knowledgeable employees that cater to their customers on a level you just can’t get in superstores.

Mass production is old and mass individualization is new (again).

Many people will miss Borders and you’ll read tweets and comments saying just that, but we will keep buying books, print and digital. The business of books is not dead, it’s just changed.

Your thoughts?

Will you miss Borders? Do you think Barnes and Noble will survive?

Do you buy digital or print books more often?


  • Jessica Shouppe
    Posted at 17:16h, 28 July Reply

    I will miss Borders, more for the fact that it is the only real book store in my city than for the store itself.
    I do agree that they took their eye off of what made them successful. Walking into Borders used to be about the books, but our local store pushed the books to the back of the store in recent years to make way for music and movies and stationary and toys and games, etc. It was a struggle to find what I was looking for most of the time because the employees knew next to nothing about books, but could tell you where every DVD in the store was located and when it was released.

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