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Borders closing remaining stores

As Borders falls apart, almost 400 stores across the country will be closing.

By Husna Haq / July 19, 2011

Borders bookstore in Penn Plaza in NYC on December 23, 2007. The bookstore chain has put itself up for sale, suspended its quarterly dividend and has taken a loan from Pershing Square Capital Management, an investor in the chain.

Frances M. Roberts/Newscom/File

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The final chapter of the Borders Group saga has been written.

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After an eleventh-hour bid to buy Borders fell apart last week, the nation’s second-largest bookstore chain announced Monday it is closing.

A group of liquidators will close Borders’ remaining 399 stores. Some 10,700 jobs will be lost.

“Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development,” Mike Edwards, Borders’ president, said in a statement. “The headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, e-reader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

The 40-year-old bookseller struggled to compete with larger rival Barnes & Noble. But its biggest blow came from Amazon, which began dominating book retail when the market shifted online. Borders also entered the e-reader game too late and never caught up to its rivals’ Kindle and Nook e-book download sales.

Borders filed for Chapter 11 in February, closing about a third of its 650 stores, and had hoped to sell itself to buyout firm Najafi Cos., owner of the Book-of-the-Month Club. But the deal fell through when creditors balked at the terms, which would have allowed Najafi to liquidate Borders without creditors benefiting.

Several liquidators, led by Hilco Merchant Resources, will begin liquidations as early as Friday. All Borders bookstores will be liquidated by September, Borders said.

The company was founded in 1971 in Ann Arbor, Mich., as a used bookstore. Over the years, it faced a series of hurdles, from a competitive retail environment to constant management change to a failure to compete effectively with online retailers and to move aggressively into digital books.

The move has publishers disheartened, worried that customers will have fewer places to browse for books, discover new reads, and make impulse purchases. Publishers have said they will likely decrease print runs and shipments as a result of Borders’ closing. Some publishing houses have staff who work only with Borders, and those divisions may be refocused or let go.

Borders’ departure will, however, be a boon to its competition, including Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which may move into some of the store spaces vacated by Borders. Independent bookstores that have long fought the onslaught of superstores are celebrating as well.

Linda Bubon, an owner of Women and Children First, a 31-year-old bookstore in Chicago, told The New York Times she had watched with disbelief as Borders opened one store after another in the last 10 years.

“Now we have this behemoth off our backs,” she said. “It’s not the politic answer to say that inside, there’s a little happy bookseller who’s jumping up and down.”

Still, the closings are a loss for communities across the United States, as Mr. Edwards told Borders employees in a company memo.

“For decades, our stores have been destinations within our communities – places where people have sought knowledge, entertainment, and enlightenment and connected with others who share their passion.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor contributor.

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