About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

on the Borders

Last week's Crains NY Business has an article about big cuts in initial orders at Borders that have publishers unhappy. I'd link, except you can't read the article without a subscription, which I don't have. Basically, orders on some titles look to be 10% to 50% below what publishers might have been expecting. And the ongoing closures of Waldenbooks locations are hurting sales in sf/fantasy and romance in particular. (Many of the stores that closed probably not selling much on an individual basis, but if you aggregate, it adds up.) Yes, books can be reordered, but Borders doesn't have the supply chain that gives me a lot of confidence on that front. B&N is more iikely to end up in a good place from a smaller initial.

I'm starting to see signs of a quicker hook on some titles at Borders, following on their efforts to reduce title count and increase face-outs which I discussed here. As an example, the fifth and final book in a JABberwocky sold series is on the way out at the Park Ave. store, even though it just sold the 5th of five initial order copies from September. That's a hook. Sell five copies in seven months, and get the hook? That's harsh, and something I don't think would have happened a year or two ago. You can justify/rationalize; the earlier books in the series weren't selling much and aren't easy to find so it might be tough to say you'll find new series fans to keep buying copies if Borders reorders them, and this particular book is selling only a few dozen copies a week right now according to Bookscan. Nonetheless, this is harsh. It's pushing the book to its death instead of letting it fall on its own.

Borders has some intriguing action in its front of store. The NYC stores last week unveiled a new arrangement where the tables at the front that have been reserved for new hardcovers since the inception of Borders 30 years ago are now being used for the top 10 fiction and non-fiction bestsellers. However, it's mostly a swap since there used to be bestseller bays on the walls or along the side, and those bays now seem to have the new hardcover titles that used to be on the tables. Still, it's a pretty radical thing to change those tables after all these years. The change hadn't yet been rolled out in the Newark DE store or the downtown Philly stores that I visited on Friday, but the people I've asked in NY are telling me this is going chain-wide and that they aren't just testing. I really like the big multi-level seasonal table that's being rolled out, and currently featuring an array of father's day gifts.

The first of their new concept stores to open in the NE is arriving in Southbury CT. Soft opening may be May 22, grand opening the weekend of May 30/June 1. I'm not sure I can get up on the 22nd for a variety of reasons, but if not then definitely the grand opening weekend. I am very eager to see.


Steve said...

I feel that Borders is bleeding. The rumor I've heard is that a large chunk of their store mangers are looking for employment elsewhere. Some of it has to do with them needing to borrow 42 million dollars to cover their expenses for the current fiscal year. Talk is also going around of them selling off Waldenbooks entirely. I don't know if a tourniquet can stop the bleeding that's happening.

Steve said...

gah! my previous comment seems to have vanished.

Here is the thing about Borders - they seem to be bleeding money. THey borrowed around 42 million dollars just to cover their expenses for THIS fiscal year. That is brutal. Many mangers are looking to jump ship. Also, they are talking of selling off Waldenbooks completely. Bad management in my opinion...of course, that's why I left them.

You know, all of the internal strategies/training they had was with the intent of dealing a death-blow to B&N. Seems they spent so much time/effort/money on what they could change, that Borders failed to see what they were doing right. Most people know the term "Love Group." Internally, Borders ignored their Love Group. They gave a metaphoric (and sometimes not-so-metaphoric) middle-finger to the managers that were ranked in the top 20 of the company. Those managers had their Waldenbooks stores closed, and then were told that they wouldn't be offered jobs at Borders stores. They told Walden employees that they couldn't transfer to Borders. Never mind that when all of this started Walden's profit margins were actually better than Borders stores.

Stumbling over dollars to save pennies.