After a deal to sell Borders to the Najafi Companies fell through last week and no last-minute buyer emerged, the Borders Group said on Monday that it would liquidate and shut down its remaining 399 stores, according to the New York Times.
The liquidation plan, to be carried out by the private equity firms Hilco and the Gordon Brothers Group, is being presented today to the federal judge overseeing the company’s bankruptcy case. It is expected that some Borders locations will start shutting down as soon as tomorrow, with the liquidation process running through September. However, in late breaking news, Publishers Lunch, which is at today’s hearing, reported that this morning Borders lawyer Andrew Glenn told the court that Books-A-Million has made an offer for 30 Borders locations with an option for five more.
Earlier this week, reacting to the news of Borders’ liquidation plans, ABA CEO Oren Teicher issued the following statement:
“It is jolting news for any community when a bookstore closes, and independent booksellers are saddened to hear that almost 11,000 Borders employees will be losing their jobs. However, we do not believe that the Borders closing is a bellwether for the future of bricks-and-mortar bookstores nationwide. Rather, it is, in part, an unfortunate right-sizing of a bookstore landscape that has suffered from overexpansion in certain markets. ABA is not only bullish on bricks-and-mortar bookselling, but we see opportunities for our current members to expand and for new stores to open. Indie bookstores have cultivated strong ties to the local community, curated hand-picked selections of titles, and leveraged well-designed retail spaces to serve book lovers across the country. The result has been a stable market share in an unstable economy. We are optimistic for our industry and our channel.”
Around the country, ABA members have also been contacted by media outlets to comment on Borders’ imminent liquidation and the future of bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
“The bookstores that will stick around are the ones that are going to be nimble and adapt quickly,” Sam Droke-Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pennsylvania, told LancasterOnline.com. To that end, Aaron’s is selling Google eBooks and store staff works hard to know what customers want and to ensure that it’s in stock.
“Small independent bookstores are starting to have a resurgence, especially in places like Lititz, where it’s a walking town and where people like coming in and browsing,” Droke-Dickinson said, pointing to the shop local movement. “People are thinking about what’s important to my community and ‘where should my money go?’”
Alzada Knickerbocker, co-owner of The Avid Reader, the oldest bookstore in Davis, California, told the Daily Democrat that her store had lost about half of its audience when Borders opened its Davis branch in 1998 and had never gained it back.
Now that Avid Reader will be the sole off-campus source for new books, Knickerbocker told the newspaper that she and her staff will be rethinking their inventory again. “We will definitely respond as people come in and say what they want in a bookstore selection,” she said.
“While we’re very sorry to see Border’s close in terms of their employees, Borders has done nothing to help the local businesses,” Katharine Nevins, owner of MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, New Hampshire, told NECN.com. But, she said, “We’re looking forward to this rejuvenation that we’re seeing” in indie bookselling and the Shop Local movement. At MainStreet BookEnds, she’ll continue to strengthen the store’s assets: more events, more community meeting places, and “the inventory that constantly shifts to adjust to what the community needs.”
Stuart Gersen, co-owner of Longfellow Books in downtown Portland, Maine, told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that he expects to get some new customers after the liquidation sales at Borders end. “There’s still a lot of opportunity to sell books, because there’s still a lot of people who want to read real books and touch real books,” Gersen said. “And so as long as that’s true, you know if the numbers will work, we’ll all morph and change I mean, we’ve all changed over the years — and that will continue to happen.”
Read more about how indie booksellers are responding proactively to the closing of Borders in this week’s article, “Responding to the Borders Liquidation: An Action Kit.”