Friday, June 9, 2023

Company Man asks 'The Decline of Borders...What Happened?' A tale of the Retail Apocalypse for Flashback Friday

It's Flashback Friday, so I'm revisiting my thoughts about Borders Books from Ten of the companies that went out of business this decade and 9,300+ stores closed this year, two tales of the Retail Apocalypse.
While I didn't realize it at the time, the first Retail Apocalypse story I wrote about on this blog was the demise of Borders Books. I thought it was like the bankruptcies of Jacobson's, whose space in Ann Arbor Borders occupied after Jacobson's moved out to Briarwood Mall, and Montgomery Ward's, which was the first anchor to abandon Northland Mall, the second Retail Apocalypse story I covered here. Both of those were weak companies that went under during a recession, which is when I expect businesses would fail. I thought much the same of Borders at the time, in addition to it being a personal loss. In retrospect, the failure of Borders was much bigger than that and turned out to be a taste of things to come.
At the time, I concentrated on what the store meant to me and outsourced my analysis of why it failed to a LiveJournal account where the analysis is now unavailable. I can relate; I stopped posting there years ago because I didn't want to agree to the Putin-friendly terms of service on a Russian-owned site. Still, the disappearance of that analysis was a big loss, one that Company Man Mike remedied when he asked The Decline of Borders...What Happened?

Borders was one of the country's most popular bookstores when it filed for bankruptcy in 2011. This video attempts to explain why they failed while many others, including Barnes & [Noble], live on.

Note: This video was completed in April 2020, and is being released today as part of the channel's 6-year anniversary celebration.
Here's Company Man Mike's list of reasons for Borders failing.

This seems like a fairly comprehensive list. I would add a mismatch in corporate culture between the employees, who really believed in the way company had been run, and the top executives, who I think caught something bad when KMart owned the company, the same thing that eventually caught up with both KMart and Sears. Sigh.

All that survives is the domain, which Barnes & Noble bought. That's like Toys R Us buying KB Toys — ironic. It's also a sign that the rest of the company's intellectual property wasn't worth saving. Even Hostess had a better fate.

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