NEW YORK — The scene this weekend at the last of the remaining Borders bookstores to close was more like a wake than a funeral. Shoppers reminisced fondly about their beloved bookseller rather than grieve its loss.
Amid upbeat jazz music and large red-and-yellow signs announcing the “Final Days” of the Borders in Queens in New York City, customers snagged deals on used chairs and coffee machines. At a Borders in Cincinnati, readers were eager to grab book titles for up to 90 percent off. Signs at a Borders in Cambridge, Mass., implored shoppers to haggle: “No Reasonable Offer Refused.”
“I find it really sad,” said Victoria Florea, 49, who was looking for discounts over the weekend at the Cambridge store so she could use her $50 gift card before it closed. “I’m glad to get these bargains, but I’m sad at the same time.”
Borders, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain that pioneered the big-box bookselling concept and grew to 1,249 stores at its peak in 2003, ceased to exist by the end of the day on Sunday. The chain’s demise is expected to have wide-reaching effects on authors and publishers, who will have to find new ways to market their works to businesses such as Barnes & Noble that will benefit from losing a big rival.
“The absence of Borders is going to be felt across the industry,” said Michael Norris, a Simba Information senior trade analyst. “The loss of the ‘showroom’ effect of bookstores is not going to be replaced anytime soon.”
A few vestiges of Borders will remain. Books-A-Million is taking over 14 stores. Bidders including Barnes & Noble and Malaysian company Berjaya Books (which operated some Borders in Malaysia) will take over $15.8 million in Borders’ intellectual property. That includes trademarks; the Borders, Waldenbooks and Brentano’s trade names; Internet domain names; and the Borders.com e-commerce website.
That is little solace to some shoppers who were taking advantage of the deals at the remaining Borders stores this weekend. Many wondered where they would shop once the chain disappears - even though many of them already were migrating to online booksellers and discount chains.
At the Queens store in the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, a half-dozen shoppers milled around scantily filled shelves. Signs touting up to 90 percent off books and 50 percent off fixtures peppered Borders’ large glass windows. A wooden sign showed photos of fixtures such as coffee machines, lockers and chairs - all marked sold. A bright red display shelf stood empty and abandoned. Sale price: $100.
“What a shame,” said Marcin Machula, 40, a trainer from Queens who was in the store over the weekend. He said he has been coming to the Glendale Borders once a month for years to have a cup of coffee and look for books on sports performance. “This place is going to be missed.”
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