Why Borders Failed

My neighborhood Borders is closing - it's a big blow to our local mall and movie theater complex. The rumor of Borders bankruptcy had swirled around for a while before it actually happened, so the store closing wasn't exactly a surprise. It still sucks for our local economy and psyche, though.

Recently, Mark Evans, Director of Merchandise Planning & Analysis for Borders outlined 6 reasons why he thought Borders failed. For example:

Failure to build efficient systems and processes - While Borders legendary "expert system" was considered cutting edge and an advantage early on, the company failed to successfully build upon this foundation and create new, better assortment, replenishment, and supply chain systems and processes to keep pace with the changing state of technology and efficient retail operations. B&N invested considerable time/energy/money through the 90's in systems and processes. To provide one example, a lower ranked title that sells out in a B&N will be replenished from a central warehouse within 2-3 days. The same process could take up to 16 weeks for Borders. Borders sought to upgrade systems with two large efforts in the 00's: first one was a home grown effort called Common Systems. Second was a "buy and integrate" project to implement Retek and E3. Both failed spectacularly. The Retek effort dramatically hurt the Walden chain, the only business unit that was managed by the system. With both of these efforts, large sums of money and, perhaps more importantly, human resources and time were squandered.

I read through all his 6 reasons (TLDR: lack of Internet sales, overspent on real estate, invested in music CDs as that sector cratered, carrying too large assortment of books, failure to reorder things that sell well, branding failure) - and noticed one conspicuous absence: they didn't mention their customers at all!

Our local Borders had terrible customer service (I remember the exact moment that Borders lost me as a customer: a manager once implied that I was stealing when I tried to return a book without receipt!)

Link - via Boing Boing

Do you agree with Mark Evans? Why do you think Borders went bankrupt?

(Photo: iSharQ [Flickr] - actually, this is quite an interesting photo - see the title of the book Haje Jan Kamps added to the bottom of the sign on Flickr)


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I worked at a Borders and there were a lot of serial returners who were trying to pull off a scam. These people came by all the time trying to return piles of books so they could get a gift card and buy a dvd or something, then the next week they try to return the dvd or cd or whatever along with a bunch more books.

Then there were the people who would get all mad when they said they got this or that book as a gift and we could only give them 5 bucks because there was a big pile of them sitting in the bargain section.

I get annoyed when people give me a hassle for returning stuff but that's only because I almost never return stuff. I seriously do not understand stores that have a return policy that will take back anything (i.e. Kohls)like shredded up pants that reek of cigarette smoke, but that's just me.
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I'm not surprised they've fallen on hard times. I used to love Borders...but then the recession hit and I discovered Amazon and used bookstores like Bookmans. Really, why would anyone pay $10 for a book that they can get for $3 used? Books aren't like underwear; who cares if someone else used it before you?
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I went to a Borders and waited almost 20 minutes in a long line. When I got to the register I found out why the line was so slow. The employees were spending several minutes each trying to convince every customer to sign up for unwanted memberships and cards, etc. When I said 'no thanks' the guy would just move on to some other offer. By the time I actually got my books in a bag I was just about ready to give him the finger.
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