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The Death of Borders

November 29th, 2009 by Peter

It’s a real shame this week to see that the Borders chain in the UK has went into administration. I don’t know any book lovers who don’t also enjoy going to Borders but the problem, I think, was summed up very well in this article on the first post website.

“It might have worked had Borders UK stuck to the high street. Instead they made the fatal decision of settling in edge-of-town shopping malls where mums pushing babies might like to shop for food and clothes but educated singles and young couples don’t want to spend the afternoon flicking through books.

I really enjoy going to Borders for books but how exactly am I to get there when they’re stuck out on retail parks? Even by public transport these places are hard to get too, at least the local ones are, and who wants to pay for a combination of buses, metros and ferries when you can simply get on one metro into the city. You won’t have a borders but you can probably get by with Waterstone’s and in turn you have all the other shops, galleries, coffee shops and everything else the city offers. In general retail parks aren’t really places to hang out, besides borders it’s all big shops to buy fridges or discount clothing outlets.

It’s common sense when a large portion of book buyers are students or young people to have branches easily accessible to universitys and yet neither Newcastle, Sunderland (Okay, that one is understandable, they may be my alma mater but it’s still Sunderland.) or Durham has a branch. When I have been in city branches in places like Glasgow and Leeds they’re usually very busy and students often use the coffee shops to work in so not putting outlets near universities was a major error. I do buy some books online but I also buy a lot in the shops still, Borders always had better choice than any other chain in the UK in that sense. Waterstone’s is a good shop but is increasingly skewed towards best-sellers and celeb biogs, Foyles is great but only in London and WHSmith isn’t really a book shop – it’s bric-a-brac with a few books thrown in for effect.

I really wish that some other chain would see this for what it is – an opportunity – and move in on the market. It would be a perfect opportunity for someone like Barnes & Noble, who are surely long overdue a presence in the UK, to enter the market. Yes, they’d have to be on the ball and move into the big cities instead of staying on the margins but I do think the business model for big book shops can work if done correctly. It seems sad that in most of the areas in the UK you will now be left with the choice of only Waterstone’s or the internet. Borders didn’t just represent a shop, it was a place to socialise that stayed open decent hours. I’m not particularly a drinker so having somewhere you can sit with friends and good books on an evening was a perfect set up.

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