Gone but Not Forgotten Michigan Born Businesses: Borders Books

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Written By Happy





Borders Books, originating in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1971, was once a thriving bookstore chain. Founded by brothers Tom and Louis Borders, it initially served the academic community of the University of Michigan and nearby colleges, becoming a favored spot for book enthusiasts with its diverse offerings of books, music, and magazines.

The Ascension of Borders

Demonstrating innovation and technological acumen, the Borders brothers devised a customized inventory system, facilitating efficient sales tracking, understanding customer preferences, and streamlined book ordering from publishers. Expanding their premises by incorporating adjacent buildings, they transformed the store into a vast bookstore, housing over 100,000 titles. By the late 1980s, Borders had burgeoned into one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores.

In 1992, Kmart acquired Borders, alongside Waldenbooks, another bookstore chain. Despite the departure of the Borders brothers, their innovative inventory system found continued use in both Borders and Waldenbooks. In 1995, Kmart spun off Borders and Waldenbooks as an independent entity called Borders Group. This move marked the beginning of Borders Group’s public status and an ambitious expansion strategy that led to the establishment of numerous superstores in the United States and internationally.

The Decline of Borders

While enjoying success through the 1990s and early 2000s, Borders faced mounting competition from online giants like Amazon and discount retailers such as Walmart and Costco, offering books at lower prices. The company struggled to adapt to evolving industry trends, particularly the surge in popularity of e-books and digital readers. Slow to launch its e-commerce website and e-reader, Borders relied on third-party vendors like Amazon and Sony for these services. Additionally, heavy investments in music and DVD sales proved detrimental as digital downloads and streaming gained prominence.

Borders witnessed financial losses, dwindling market share, and accumulated substantial debt. In 2011, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, announcing the closure of 226 stores. Despite efforts to find a buyer or restructure its debt, Borders failed and was compelled to liquidate its remaining assets. The closure of its last 399 stores in September 2011 marked the conclusion of Borders’ 40-year history as a bookstore chain.

The Enduring Impact of Borders

Though Borders may have faded, the memories of countless book lovers linger. Fond recollections include browsing shelves, attending events, and interacting with the store’s staff. Beyond being a mere bookstore, Borders fostered a sense of community and culture. Its legacy endures in its contributions to promoting literacy, diversity, and creativity, supporting authors, publishers, and artists. Borders’ lasting imprint on the book industry is evident through its innovations in inventory management, merchandising, and customer service. Born in Michigan, Borders may be gone, but its impact on the world of books remains undeniable.


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