Here are some quick updates from the past few days about Borders’ ongoing implosion:
- More stores are being closed than just the 200 listed on the initial filings. Publishers Weekly says up to 75 additional locations might be shuttered, depending on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with landlords. In other words, your local store might not be safe even if it’s not on this map.
- At least some Borders employees reported bounced payroll checks at the end of last week; it appears this was because Borders’ accounts were frozen when it filed bankruptcy. The link leads to a Livejournal thread where instructions are posted on how to re-request a valid paycheck.
- Some Borders’ employees are blogging about the experience of working in a store that’s closing. You may not be surprised to find out that some customers are awful people, and they make things awful for everyone else. The sad thing is, anyone with a shred of consumer smarts knows that close-out sales like this one rarely offer great deals. (And if all you want is a cheap book, uhh, have you heard of Amazon?)
- The author Brian Keene writes that part of the general blame for failing bookstores falls upon entitled non-shoppers who sit around for hours typing or reading, but who never buy anything. This triggers a lot of interesting comments for and against his argument.
- Literary agent Joshua Bilmes writes that bad real estate decisions sunk Borders, but he admits that it’s easier to say that in hindsight: “Some of those bad real estate decisions, I’d have made.”
Author Nick Mamatas adds that Borders’ grocery store approach to merchandising and an outdated inventory system made the chain unprofitable. Ahh, that cursed inventory system — that explains why Borders always stuck its own barcode stickers on books that were pre-printed with UPCs.
All of these issues have been publicly discussed for a couple of years now at least, which suggests that they were unfixable. However, at least one person — the former CEO of Borders UK (which went under in late 2009) — writes that while fixing these problems would have bought the retailer more time, the reality is that bookselling is a hard business to succeed in, and big box bookstores are simply no longer an efficient way to sell books.
- Finally, the Washington Post notes that the fallout includes not just publishers and distributors but property owners facing millions in lost rent. — approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space will be freed by store closings.
That same article notes that Barnes & Noble may actually be able to demand better rent as a result. Traditionally, the company left standing in a market shake-out like this ends up with increased negotiating power, which could help B&N renegotiate expensive leases or find better deals.