Editor in Chief
Borders has written its final chapter, as all of its stores have closed and the company fully liquidated in late September.
As Borders liquidated, it shut down nearly 1,000 stores and laid off close to 11,000 employees. Its closing marked an end to one of America’s biggest book store chain and has defined a new era in the book market. Borders started losing ground in the book market when it edged away from online shopping and decided to stick with more traditional book sales in stores.
“In the early days of Internet, people didn’t see potential in it and a lot of companies didn’t have websites,” said Jill Lybarger, an ex-manager of a book store B. Dalton, which experienced a similar liquidation process to that of Borders back in 2005.
Borders stuck to traditional book sales in stores for a while, but it took them a while to take advantage of online shopping. When Borders decided to utilize a website, it asked rival company Amazon to manage its website.
“You don’t want to give your entire customer base to someone who could be your competitor,” said Lybarger.
Because online companies like Amazon have fewer employees and less rent, they can cut a lot more of a discount for their customers — something that Borders had trouble competing with.
“Amazon came up with a new way to buy books,” said Lybarger. “It’s a lot more convenient for a customer to sit at home in the PJs and order a book online, opposed to them getting dressed and go to the book store.”
As Borders starting taking a turn for the worst, another problem it had was not only how its sold its books, but how many books they kept in inventory.
Lybarger said, “There became a point where they were less about the books than everything else. I think they forgot what they were doing; the last few times I walked into a Borders, I had to walk past several tables of ‘non-book’ products before I even got to the book shelves.”
Another problem Borders had was its undertrained staff. According to Lybarger who managed a book store for 11 years, it takes a certain level of knowledge to sell books. Customers come to a book store asking questions, or asking for recommendations, but it takes a certain level of experience with books to truly help that customer out.
“In a book store, people expect you to be very knowledgeable,” said Lybarger. “[In Borders] there began to be a lot of employees who weren’t properly trained and didn’t know what they were doing. Its not necessarily the employee to blame so much as the manager who didn’t train them.”