09 November 2009

Goodbye (But Why?) To Waldenbooks

Borders announced last week it would close some 200 of its mall stores in January, many of them under the pleasantly literary Waldenbooks sign -- an un-merry Christmas for the 1500 people who will lose their jobs as a result.

It's just another sign of the chain's current troubles, but I'm curious as to the reasoning behind amputating the smaller stores rather than going after some of the less profitable big-box locations (which have higher rents and are more expensive to keep running). My theories, in no particular order:
  • The smaller stores overall weren't as profitable because by necessity they had a smaller selection (modified Long Tail theory).
  • Smaller stores don't offer the browsing experience consumers prefer, being lacking in places to read. Room to linger, including to not purchase anything, has become part of the bookstore visiting experience in the past decade to the extent that customers feel uncomfortable without it.
  • Malls have been hit badly in the current economic climate as cash-strapped Americans opt out of a destination that "has never trafficked in essentials" and whose goal is to make you spend money.
  • Closing the bigger stores and stores that carry the Borders branding (as opposed to Waldenbooks) has a disproportionate effect on the company's image.

What do you think?


8yearoldsdude said...

althoguh I not work in real-estate (thank god) I believe that the per square foot rent in a mall is significantly higher than a stand-alone big box. (you have to pay the mall operator to maintain all those communal spaces for teenagers to loiter in among other costs). that puts pressure on those stores to sell even more books for their size than other bookstores which are also struggling.

Elizabeth said...

It is true that I am grateful to Borders for the many hours of my life I have spent waiting there in comfy chairs, but I can't figure out why they would be grateful to me.

Wade Garrett said...

Borders has always been my favorite national chain - really, what doesn't it have on its shelves? - but having said that, the things I like about the chain are present in its big box stores, and not in Waldenbooks. Its comprehensive selection, its obscure music and books, its cafe, the chairs in which you can read all day and not be bothered . . . all of it is a far cry from the small shopping mall stores that only carry best sellers and magazines, and only offer them at full price. I don't get the appeal.

Matt said...

All Waldenbooks in SF closed down about two years ago thanks to the diminishing mall traffic. I was never a fan of WB because I try to support the local indies. Selection at WB is very generic.