July 23, 2011 in City

Borders patrons take final browse

Liquidation begins at bankrupt bookstore
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Spokane Borders bookstore was filled Friday with shoppers taking advantage of reduced prices after the company announced it is going out of business.

Borders Group Inc. began liquidating its 399 stores nationwide Friday, including those in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Some Spokane customers expressed surprise at the announcement Friday – as they packed the store to save up to 40 percent – but others knew the closure was coming.

Kati Lutz, of Spokane, said her husband is a former employee and they have many friends who work at various stores. Her husband, who did not wish to be identified, was laid off in 2008.

“We … know a lot of people that work here,” Lutz said. “I think it’s going to be tough. It’s definitely not an easy time to be looking for a job.”

However, she said, “I think most people saw it coming.”

The liquidation plan was approved Thursday by a bankruptcy judge in New York, according to the Associated Press, and about $700 million worth of books, DVDs and other goods is expected to be liquidated by September. About 10,700 employees nationwide will be without jobs. It is unknown how many employees at the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene stores will be unemployed when the liquidations are complete; employees could not comment on the closure.

Lissa Roberts, a frequent Borders customer, was shocked and disappointed when she learned Friday morning of the impending closure, she said. The Newport Highway Borders is the closest bookstore to her home in Deer Park. Now, she’ll have to travel farther south to Barnes & Noble at the NorthTown Mall or buy her books online.

“I don’t like the mall,” she said. “I avoid it like the plague. I don’t want to have to go to the mall to go to the bookstore. So, yeah, I’m disappointed.”

Borders began as a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1971, according to the AP. It thrived throughout the ’80s and ’90s but failed to keep up with the digital age as more and more readers turned to e-books. Borders turned its online sales over to Amazon.com in 2001 and didn’t launch its own site until 2008.

Last year – three years after Amazon released the Kindle – the company partnered with a Canadian firm to launch its own e-reader and e-book store. However, it was too late to reverse declining sales and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.

Many customers said they will start buying their books online – one factor leading to Borders’ demise – or at other major retailers. The owner of downtown Spokane’s Auntie’s Bookstore, Chris O’Harra, said the closure of Borders could be a boon for her business.

“It’s a very dual thing,” she said. “It’s very good for the decline in our competition, but it’s a very sad commentary on the economic conditions of the country. It’s a sad time, too, for the book business in general, I think.”

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