16 February 2011

Borders books a new chapter

With today's announcement that they have filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, Borders finds it self hoping to mine a sequel and stay in business.
There is a long laundry list of reason as to why this happened, but a major one includes outsourcing our online operations to Amazon.com. Back in 2001, Borders made this deal (after about a year or so of trying to launch one themselves - and that's after believing that people would never buy stuff online). That deal, while financially benefitting Amazon, it ceded valuable business to our competitor. It ended in 2008, a year after the online retailer introduced the Kindle. Ironically, had we kept the deal, we probably would have been the official retailer of that ereader, instead of Best Buy and Target.
Anyways, we relaunched Borders.com, only the site is clumsy, slow (it crashed during the peak holiday season in December), and not anywhere near user friendly.
Speaking of the ereader, this was another area Borders stumbled. While the Kindle, the iPad and Barnes & Noble's Nook were winning customers, Borders did not introduced their Kobo until late last year.
But the biggest has been the revolving door of executives. This has led to inconsistency with the management of the company and has lead to poor development and an almost Lucy Ricardo roll out of each new "plan" that was going to turn us around. I mean, in the last five years alone, there has been 5 CEO's (and whether current CEO Mike Edwards can survive is just as questionable).
And while the resession can be blamed for some of the problems of the last few years, most of this began 15 years ago. Beyond the Amazon deal, Borders expanded much too quickly, even going international (which even B&N realized was a pointless). This caused a major problem with workable cash flow, causing us to go further into debt.
Now, 200 hundred stores will close. Here in SoCal, the closings are huge (but like Illinois, California is another large state were Borders has a big foot print). Something like 15 Borders will close, leaving only about 10 to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, in my home state, Borders will close half of the 30 stores they have around Chicago (2 of them I worked in, including the Lincoln Park store, and the Beverly store I help open on the South Side of the city at 95th and Western).
Borders basically ignored all the signs that the book industry, like the music and movies, was changing. They kept CD's long after a good portion of music lovers had moved to digital downloads. The same has happened with DVD's and Blu ray, where Borders became prime game for thieves.
Things that need to change:
Devest all our stores of music and DVD, only keeping new releases (and turn them around ASAP).
The ereaders will not last, as the tablet techonolgy takes over. Yes, there might be a need for a basic, less $100 ereader, but I don't see them becoming any more bigger than they already are. The iPad and other tablets will kill the the basic ereader. We need to be a step ahead here and find a name brand tablet (one that actually works).
Our CEO needs to be from the BOOK business. It's plainly stupid having your leader come from the clothing industry or grocery business. This arrogant position is probably one the biggest reasons that Borders is here today.
We also need to address why customers are not coming into our stores. Think about this, if I can download music, movies and what not from home, why should I come into the store? So that would mean getting events into our stores, thus while people are seeing these things, be it free performances for kids (which is huge aspect we're ignoring), author signings or other events, they can buy things.
Its not going to easy, that I understand. There is more potential closings to come, and the light at the end of the tunnel is not near, but Borders can be saved (though, the end of the bookstore business is coming), but it will not come from the remaining 450 stores; they're already doing that.
Our success will start at Ann Arbor, and whatever plan they come up with. But it needs viable, and logical and above all, the right thing to do for the book business and not the best thing.
That time has come and gone.

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