Reports are circulating that Borders Group, owners of the number two bookstore chain in the United States, could file for bankruptcy reorganization as early as next week. There are also rumors that the chain could close up to 200 stores and eliminate thousands of jobs. The company would not comment on the reports, other than to say that its goal is to “have a strong Borders for the long term” and that it would not comment on how it might reach that goal.
It was also reported recently that Borders was delaying payments to some vendors in January, including major publishers, most of whom were not shipping books to the chain as a result, despite a request from Borders to turn missed payments from December into loans. The company has also delayed payments to some landlords so that it could “maintain liquidity” while trying to find a way out of its financial bind. That statement came just days after it had secured a $550 million line of credit from GE Capital. In addition, there have also been reports that some publishers will not support a restructuring for Borders, which would force it to liquidate instead.
It isn’t a big surprise that this is happening. I’ve been seeing rumors about the bad state of Borders’ finances for months now. Most of the reports blame more online book sales, as well as more book sales at places like Wal-Mart, Target, and grocery stores. My own personal opinion is that this is only part of the story. I gave up shopping at my local Borders long ago, when they nearly never had what I was looking for and when staff were not helpful in aiding me in finding things that I could not locate. This is not necessarily true in other Borders stores I have shopped in while traveling, but the selection and service in my local store has been uniformly unsatisfactory almost since it opened.
The problem I found to be more widespread was the lack of organization at the stores. It is often difficult to find subject sections among non-fiction books, and within those sections there has often seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how books are shelved. I love bookstores, and I love spending time in them, but I don’t want to spend the majority of my time there having to scan every title in a section when looking for a specific book because the books are not organized in any meaningful way. Not alphabetical by author, not strictly chronologically in the case of history, nor by subject matter in the case of books on current events.
Of course, this is my own experience, and your mileage may vary. But the fact remains that I’ve often found shopping at Borders to be frustrating in the extreme, and I’m not likely to continue to shop at places where this is the case. It remains to be seen what will happen to Borders, but I’m not optimistic about the outcome of its current financial troubles.