As everyone knows, Borders is going out of business. It is always sad to see a company fold, if only because of the loss of jobs. I feel for the thousands of clerks who are now part of the unemployed. Losing Borders is no surprise, long time readers know I have been blogging about the changes I have seen at my local Borders for years. The changes never seemed to help, if anything, they seemed to drive book buyers away. This last weekend I spent a lot of time in my local store, talking to clerks and other customers. I have come to the conclusion Borders may have been saved if the upper management had used common “book” sense.
As soon as Borders announced they were going out of business and put their books on sale the masses turned up. As much as it turned m ystomach to see so many people in the store looking for bargains (it reminded me of relatives fighting for grandma’s stuff) I had to admit the sales signs really worked. So why didn’t Borders offer a better rewards program? What would have been so bad about offering loyal customers 25% off all the time? Barns and Nobles has a great reward program, it is often the deciding factor when I am deciding between a purchase from B&N or Amazon. I had a Borders reward card but hardly used it, 10% was not all that attractive as an incentive.
A couple of years ago, Borders cut back on nonfiction to make room for teen vampire and Manga books. As much as I love seeing young people read, I thought this was a mistake given the economy. Since 2008 teens have been the highest unemployed group; their discretionary spending dried up,yet Borders decided to cater to them at the expense of those who had the money to spend on books; the retired and professionals. Many long time customers complained about this change, but our local store had no control over it. During my two visits to Borders I counted three young people in the teen section; as the other shelves emptied out this section reminded packed with books. The shelves that were emptying out? The history and science section!
Speaking of science, a year ago I went to my local store with a two page wish list. Most of the books on my list were from the Royal Science Academy’s top ten picks. This list is like the Booker prize for science. To my shock, the store did not have one book on my list. When I asked I was told “science books do not sell well in this area”. I ended up going 30miles to B&N who had every book on my list. The customers Borders forgot about were the customers who did not buy from them because they did not stock the right books. I wonder how many other people turned to B&N for their books? Sunday, I saw many of the books from my list; I saw them in buyer’s hands. I was told Borders is restocking the stores from their warehouses and so each store is getting whatever is on hand. Finally, Borders stocks my loca lstore with quality science books, and yes, they are selling!
Though it is too late for Borders, perhaps this can be a lesson to the next big book chain. Give loyal customers better discounts, cater to those who have the money to spend on books and stock the shelves with quality, award winning books. I am sad to see my town’s only book store close,but this may make room for another one to move in.