I may be part of a shrinking minority but I have to admit it, Borders has always been and continues to be my favorite book store. My mother and I spent hours in the Borders store at Ward Center almost every Sunday. While their online presence has never measured up to that of bn.com (Barnes & Noble) or Amazon, except when Borders and Amazon were linked at the hip, that wonderful brick and mortar store was, for me anyway, all that! It still is.
I had no idea just how bad things have gotten for them in recent months. On Monday, January 17th, Borders laid off another 45 people and, according to MarketWatch.com, the Wall Street Journal shared the news that Borders “hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers while continuing in talks to secure a $500 million credit line.”
While I like the idea of them getting a credit line to get back on their feet, I’m a little worried about who will actually be willing or able to extend them that kind of credit. More importantly, have they polished up their business model enough to qualify?
We all like to see these great signs of sales and discounts to be had but not because the business is ready to collapse. Yes, there has been talk of bankruptcy. The same friends that alerted me to the problem-plagued condition of the store spoke of customer service problems. I know this is true because I have run into this myself.
In early 2007, although I thought it was longer ago than that, Borders severed its ties with Amazon. At the time, analysts thought Amazon would lose a lot of money. Some consumers saw it going the other way. The consumers were right. Amazon is as strong as ever, maybe stronger. Borders was and still is in trouble.
In a completely unrelated conversation with Amazon’s Kindle-support staff on Tuesday morning, while responding positively to a “How Did We Do” survey Amazon sent me via email, I asked them to light a candle for Borders. Seriously! I did! I told them that Borders is not as much their competition as they are their helper.
I know, you think I’m nuts but think about it — Borders helps us to be able to smell, touch, and feel those books we are going to download on to our Kindles, or whatever eReader floats your boat. I don’t think Borders would really appreciate that comment but it’s true.
There are still books not available for Kindle download and there are still bibliophiles, self included, who are not willing to give up the ability to walk through those wonderful glass doors and enter that colorful room filled with the scent of new books! See, the need and desire for a good bookstore is still there.
We need to have access to a place where we can hang out in comfort, a place with good books to experience, and a place equipped with quality staff that knows what it is they are selling! This is not a 7-11 Store — the staff at Borders needs to have just a little more expertise and they need to have a more cater-to-the-customer mentality.
Perhaps the affiliation with Amazon is one that Borders could, and maybe should, examine once again. Arrogance and professional jealousy on both sides will probably not let that happen. I think it would be a good idea but experts like Mary Gotaas at IBISWorld think this was one of their mistakes.
Of course they could figure out a way to sell books that are compatible with both of those lead eReaders and sell those on Borders.com, with competitive pricing! That would be great for consumers, if Borders has not already alienated publishers so much that those publishers would never entertain any such newfangled notion.
They should, they could, perhaps they might, it would be a good idea if — I can go on all day. In short, I’m hoping that Borders will be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat, or something, and get their book-seller feet back on the ground! Come on you guys, you’re making me really nervous!