In 2011, Borders booksellers liquidated their company, sold off their assets, and closed all their stores. Side-by-side with Barnes & Noble, Borders turned the industry of bookselling into a megastore business, opening stores across the country and seeing significant profit. However, that all started to change and eventually led to the stores being forced to close while Barnes & Noble remained open, though they also took a hit to their sales around the same time Borders did. Why did such a large company that seemed to be successful have to close its doors? How did Barnes & Noble, virtually the exact same type of store, remain open? I hope to provide you with more information that makes these events a little clearer.

What happened to Borders?

Initially, Borders was wildly successful and seemed to be on top of the industry. They had tens of thousands of books, more than most independent bookstores could ever hope. Borders also had an advanced inventory system that tracked readers’ preferences and helped predict which books would sell best. However, by the time technology rapidly advanced around the turn of the century, this system was considered basically obsolete and Borders lost the reason it was ahead of its competition.

While Borders likely could have weathered this storm and adapted, they made two more fatal mistakes. Borders began investing a significant amount of money into their media sales, like DVDs and CDs, but businesses were focusing more on digital resources. Then, when they finally turned their attention to online sales, the company simply outsourced online sales to Amazon, which was actually a direct competitor. Borders also procrastinated when it came to ebooks, which damaged its profit.

How did Barnes & Noble survive?

Basically, Barnes & Noble took all the chances Borders missed, such as developing the Nook, which excelled in popularity, and focusing on online sales instead of putting money into brick-and-mortar stores and opening more than they could manage. Barnes & Noble is also turning its attention to expanding what its stores offer instead of relying solely on book sales. In addition to the Nook, Barnes & Noble sells gifts, games, toys, and has become known for an extensive vinyl selection. Unlike Borders, Barnes & Noble attempts new ventures instead of holding closely to its beginnings as a physical bookstore.

Will Barnes & Noble stay open?

Many predict that Amazon will take over the book industry and force Barnes & Noble to close, but the company is hopeful it can remain open and avoid ending up like Borders. While Barnes & Noble has had to close stores every year for more than 15 years in a row, each year the number of stores closed decreases. A former CEO of Barnes & Noble, Leonard Riggio, who is still involved with the board, stated he believes the future of Barnes & Noble involves emulating the personal touches and atmospheres of independent bookstores, which have greatly gained popularity over the last few years. Right now, it seems that Barnes & Noble will continue selling books, so it remains to be seen if this evaluation stays the same in the upcoming years.

What this means on a larger scale
As I talked about in my previous blog post on the popularity of eCommerce, the competition between Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble shows how online sales are significantly increasing because people prefer the convenience of online shopping. Also, as far as books are concerned, you can usually find the same item for much cheaper online. If brick-and-mortar stores want to stay as successful as they currently are, they’ll need to work on marketing and pay careful attention to industry trends in order to compete with online companies.