Is Books-A-Million slowly becoming the new Borders?

Books-A-Million in old Borders store, Wilmington DelawareOver at The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder posted a great positive-news piece earlier today about a three-story, 41,000-square-foot bookstore that just opened in a Hong Kong shopping mall. As far as I’m concerned, any new brick-and-mortar bookstore that opens for business today is cause for celebration, even if it does happen to be halfway around the world.

Regardless of last year’s Borders liquidation, however, it looks like there may still be at least some cause for celebration here in the States as well, in the form of Books-A-Million—the Alabama-based company that at one point was intending to take over more than two dozen of the doomed Borders stores.

After Borders declared bankruptcy and closed all 399 of its locations, BAM became the second-largest bookstore chain in the country. This morning, I got word from a real estate publicist that the company has just signed a lease for a 30,000-square-foot former Borders store just outside Wilmington, Delaware. According to Metro Commercial Real Estate, which negotiated the deal on behalf of the building’s landlord, “plans call for the building to continue to be used as a bookstore by Books-A-Million, which will be open before the end of 2012.”

Last July, we briefly reported on the much-publicized news that BAM was considering the possibility of independently leasing a number of shuttered Borders locations. Since then, more than a few BAM shops have opened in former Borders stores, mostly in the South.

BAM’s current plan of attack seems to be based on the slow-and-steady model, and given the state of brick-and-mortar bookstores today, that’s probably wise. But in five years time,  say, it’s definitely likely that dozens of new BAM locations—or maybe more—will exist where only empty Borders stores stand today.

11 Comments on Is Books-A-Million slowly becoming the new Borders?

  1. That ‘mostly in the South’ leaves out quite a few stores in the Great Lakes/Northeast areas of the US. It looks like they are going for the middle states with a few outside that in Maine, NH, NY, etc.

    I haven’t been in one of these “rescued” Borders (we lost 2 here locally but already had a Books-A-Million) but the older Books-A-Million here might have a cafe in one corner but it feels like a K-Mart/Walmart. With wider aisles. Not really a place to congregate/hang out/browse. And not a huge variety.

  2. anApple retailing model may be Applicable where publishers or enclaves of publishers go in for mall locations. Book on demand print tech converges.

  3. I find it odd that someone has found a way to make this business work well enough to expand when others are failing.

    It does feel to me like the final moment of apparent health before death descends. I wish them luck.

  4. Andy isn’t that far off with the Walmart comparison. The Books-a-Million they tried to float in the local market several years ago was set up in an old Winn-Dixie supermarket, with big-box store checkout lines. Also, not a lot of chairs. I’ve been in another location that’s a bit cozier in all of these respects, so it might’ve been down to what they had to work with.

    Still, I’d really like BAM to stay healthy for awhile, if only to prove my theory that Borders was run by a boardroom of clown shoes for its last decade.

  5. A health before death trend is also apparent in screen books.A recent impairment of “text neck” derives from the frozen grasp of a single device as used for all varieties of reading and communicating. perhaps the affordance of differing sizes and shapes for each reading item in print format is an attribute.

  6. @PA Wilson – It is odd, I agree. Borders, as we know, closed 399 stores in the U.S. Books-A-Million, meanwhile, “operates over 200 stores in 31 states and the District oi Columbia,” according to its corporate website, http://www.booksamillioninc.com. I don’t know exactly how many stores BAM operates, and I don’t know how many are company-owned versus leased. But still, it’s odd.

    I don’t know how interested you are, but you download BAM’s 2012 Annual Report and its 2012 Proxy Statement at its corporate website. I’m sure that would tell you a little something, at least, about what the company is doing right.

    It’s probably also worth noting that BAM operates something like eight separate divisions, including Joe Muggs (their in-store cafes) and Yogurt Mountain, a self-serve frozen yogurt chain with 30 locations in the U.S. They also have a used-book division called 2nd and Charles that sounds a lot like Half Price Books (they also sell used CDs, video games, etc.) I don’t really know how Borders operated, but maybe BAM is just a better diversified company.

  7. Oops. What I meant to write was:

    the District *of Columbia …
    [and]
    but you *can* download BAM’s 2012 Annual Report … (is what I meant to write).

  8. A primary driver of Border’s death spiral was (really, really) bad management.
    BAM would be a few lightyears ahead of Borders if they merely had adequate management.
    Now, with “only” 75% of old Borders locations within shouting distance of a B&N, that still leaves maybe 50-80 old Border sites (potentially) ripe for BAM to move in. As long as management keeps an eye on those sites’ underlying profitability they have a fair chance at claiming whatever pbook business remains in those areas.
    Caution is clearly recommended but there still is some room for them to grow even amidst a decline of overall pbook sales. Most likely at the expense of indies, of course, but that would be *their* problem. 😉

  9. Dan Eldridge, do your research. BAM did reopen 47 former Borders locations, and not primarily in the south. Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa…those are some of the states. BAM also kept the existing store staffs and district managers so they didn’t lose their jobs. To those who made the K-mart/Wal-Mart comparison, I don’t see that in the stores I’ve been in. There’s a better selection than other bookstores, ample seating, and a coffee shop that, I think, is better than the coffee shop inside the other big bookstore chain. I’ve been to their 2nd & Charles used book store too and always find something there…great selection of vinyl!

  10. Thanks for your comment, Kevin. And yes, you’re right that BAM does operate a number of stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic and elsewhere. As for the newer BAM locations that have moved into former Borders stores: If there are, in fact, more of them located outside the reach of the Southern states, well, then I humbly stand corrected, and I appreciate you pointing that out. I do know that Publishers Weekly reported earlier this summer about a number of BAM stores that had moved into old Borders shops in New England, although every other similar BAM-to-Borders report I’ve seen has been about a Southern store. I’ll keep digging!

  11. Bryant Michaud // May 12, 2015 at 6:20 pm //

    Eric W. hit the nail on the head. Even when Walmart was deep discounting 7 our of every 10 DVDs in the country, the Borders bozos insisted they could still sell them for full list price. Collapse didn’t take long. When I walked around the BAM store today in Concord, NH, there was virtually no floor traffic and even fewer at the checkouts. An employee at a nearby store told me he can’t understand how they keep the doors open at BAM. Maybe the Borders bozos are still in the wings somewhere, waiting for full retail to bloom again!

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