[As someone whose livelihood was put in jeopardy by the “bookstore wars,” the battle between the big box bookstores that hit Chicago in the early 80’s, I have reason to cast a jaundiced eye at the bankruptcy of Borders. Those of us who speculated about the challenge of the superstores at that time had a greater respect for Borders than for Barnes & Noble. There was a reason for that. Borders started as an independent. They were renowned for their wide selection of books. We also hated their methods as they began to expand: sort of a franchise operation, all claiming to be independent of each other, so that Borders the original could claim a distributor’s discount to their franchised stores. When Barnes & Noble decided to go into the superstore business (it is amusing that their official history claims they invented the superstore), they did so with such a capital investment, such a rush, that Borders was left far behind despite their head start.
In Chicago, they claimed control of the market first with their flagship store on Michigan Avenue. While Barnes & Noble pursued a suburban strategy, they surrendered Chicago dominance to their competitor. For a time Barnes & Noble sought space on Michigan Avenue, in Streeterville, in the plagued development of Block 37, ultimately to settle for a college store in conjunction with DePaul on State Street. They pursued a college store strategy securing the locations at Loyola, Northwestern and University of Chicago before the downtown DePaul store. And as the two behemoths slugged it out, they both foundered, like heavyweights too topheavy to make it through 15 rounds, exhausted in the battle. In August, 2010 Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale and languished for lack of a buyer. Various rumors surfaced that the two chains would merge, that Barnes & Noble would go into chapter 11 along with Borders, rumors that are still out there. A bankruptcy index last week speculated that, despite strong holiday sales the look for Barnes & Noble is not great. Others speculate that the closing of 30% of Borders stores will aid Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Looking at the statistics, while Borders has over 600 stores (before the closings), Barnes & Noble has more than 1300 (if you include both the college and retail divisions). Should Chapter 11 hit Barnes & Noble, the shock wave of closings would be extraordinary.
There will be 6,000 unemployed Borders workers on the streets as their stores close. That is something none of us should gloat over, regardless of our personal experience with the chain bookstores. Something similar could happen with Barnes & Noble. It’s true that in the past 10 years the chains have become worse than ever. Walking into a Barnes & Noble is like walking into a tomb for books, despite the number of book cases. Amazon, the “Kindle” and on-line bookselling has something to do with it: the underlying story is the electronicization, the digitization of the industry which makes a bricks and mortar strategy incomprehensible on the scale of the superstores. The other question that anyone ought to consider: after years of an economic battle which decimated the independent book industry, the loss of 30% of the chain stores will leave a “bricks and mortar” void that takes a strategic view to overcome. — Lew Rosenbaum]
Borders Group Inc
filed for bankruptcy protection and said it would close about one-third of its bookstores, including about half of its Chicago area stores.
According to Chicago Breaking Business, “five of eight stores in Chicago will close, including the one at North Avenue and Halsted Street, as well as those in Lincoln Park, Uptown, Lincoln Village and Beverly. The Hyde Park store is in the process of closing and will shut its doors on March 7. This means the only Borders superstore left in the city will be in the Loop.
Borders stores in Evanston, Mount Prospect, Deerfield, Bolingbrook, St. Charles, Crystal Lake, McHenry, DeKalb and Matteson are also slated for closure. Outside of Illinois, locations in Merrillville, Ind., and Fox Point, Wis., will be closing.”
All 200 closings will be superstores, and about 6,000 jobs will be affected, the company said. It has the option of closing up to 275 in all, according to court documents. It said the stores it wants to close lose a combined $2 million a week. The closings will start by Saturday. The company said it will honor gift cards.
From WBBM news: The following Borders Bookstores will be closing:
• 2817 N. Clark St., Chicago
• 755 W. North Ave., Chicago
• 4718 N. Broadway, Chicago
• 2210 W. 95th St., Chicago
• 6103 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
• 1700 Maple Ave., Evanston
• 7100 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Norridge
• 909 N. Elmhurst Rd., Mount Prospect
• 4824 W. 211th St., Matteson
• 49 S. Waukegan Rd. , Deerfield
• 3539 E. Main St., St. Charles
• 161 N. Webber Rd., Bolingbroook
• 221 Richmond Rd., McHenry
• 600 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake
• 2704 Southlake Mall, Merrillville, Ind.