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Borders’ ‘Concept Store’

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Borders, the US bookstore chain, was for a time a credible competitor to the even bigger chain, Barnes & Noble. However, as the digital revolution in publishing moved forwards in the early 2000s, Borders made numerous unfortunate managerial decisions, unwittingly putting itself on a course towards collapse. Overexpansion and unsustainable debt were in the background, and ill-considered in-store retailing techniques in the foreground. This article reports on a visit to a representative Borders ‘concept store’, in Massachusetts, where nearly every department in the store had been adapted from traditional bookselling methods to exploit the digital side of bookselling and publishing. And yet nothing worked well enough to capture the attention of shoppers. The store—and by extrapolation the nationwide chain—essentially self-destructed, leaving a gaping hole in American bookselling.


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