Readers Without Borders on Mag Mile

Bookseller plans to close flagship store on Michigan Avenue

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Crain's Chicago Business
    Borders has announced it will close its Michigan Ave location due to the poor economy and online competition.

    Feeling the pinch of the recession, Borders Group Inc. has announced it will close its flagship store at 830 N. Michigan Ave. in January 2010.

    "It's a difficult decision to close a store, and we've done all that we can to keep this location open," Steve Davis, a Borders senior vice-president, says in a press release. "This store has not met our profit objectives for some time now. In today's economy, no retailer can afford to operate stores that do not produce the kind of results required to sustain a location."

    The three-level book, music, and movie retail store has operated on the Magnificent Mile since 1995.

    The store closing may not come as much of a surprise to those who have followed business news recently. Borders has closed several stores and cut staff—including executive positions—this month. Shares closed at 58 cents Thursday (BGP) and have fallen nearly 95 percent in the past year. The company is in danger of having its stock delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

    But the unstable economy isn't the only cause of bookstores' woes. Businesses have to compete with increased competition from online retailers such as Amazon.com, Inc.

    As Jonathan Messinger of Time-Out Chicago notes, "As bookstores lose out to internet competition, a flagging economy, and lagging interest, it's important that they become more than just stores."

    Brick-and-mortar bookstores must offer something that their online competition can't. They must provide more than just books. Many independent bookstores offer a personal touch and are gathering places for social clubs, students, and folks just looking for a quiet corner. National retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble, who focus primarily on sales and not on community, may not survive if trends continue.

    Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, buys books faster than he can read them.