Borders have been under performing for some time and today the company have announced more closures by trimming it's UK operations - the closures include my own local store at Talbot Green, Llantrisant. As soon as I heard the news I went to the store and found a manic 50% off everything sale going on. This is the busiest I've seen the store in months but it was with a heavy heart that I handed over £50 at the till for a hundred pounds worth of books, CD'S and DVD's. I really would rather pay the full price if it meant that Borders would stay.
The news is of a worry not only to book buyers but especially to writers who can only look on in dismay at the supermarkets growing share of the book market. The Society of authors released the following statement:
The Society of Authors believes that if any Borders stores close, further market share will be handed to supermarkets, which have made a big move into book retailing. The focus by Tesco and Asda on selling high volumes of a limited range of best-sellers will lead to 'fewer books by good authors' being published, the society believes. 'It is worrying and authors are very anxious about it. The high street is so important when it comes to publishers deciding what is published,' said Mark Le Fanu, the writer and general secretary of the Society of Authors.
On a personal note I am gutted as Borders served me well in that I was able to pick up many import books and magazines that I didn't see elsewhere and although I've been pleased to buy heavily discounted books in Asda and Tesco's the fact that they only seem to carry the bestsellers is indeed worrying. It was through Borders that I discovered writers like Richard Stark, Elmer Kelton, William Johnstone and others who don't have a big profile over here in the UK. I was also able to buy the entire Hard Case crime range in Borders and I've not seen these titles in any other book shop. W.H.Smith's is crap and stocks a similar range to the supermarkets only at much higher prices. How long will Smiths, an icon of the UK High Street survive? Once it would have been unthinkable to consider that Smiths would not be around forever but then two years ago if someone predicted Woolworth's closure they would have been laughed at.
Years ago I applauded the abolishment of the NET book aggrement but now I'm not so sure, with the aggrement in place the supermarkets wouldn't be able to discount so heavily which will eventually damage the book business. Not so long back the supermarkets were offering the Harry Potter hardcovers on the day of publiction for £1 - who benefits from this madness? The supermarkets treat the books as loss leaders but it looks now as if all this madness will affect real book lovers, people who enjoy browsing in good bookshops and being served by knowledgeable staff. In the supermarkets the staff don't even know anything about their Baked Beans let along what books a certain author's written.
"In a statement Phillip Downer, chief executive of Borders said: "Several weeks ago, the directors of Borders UK confirmed to our staff and our key suppliers that we were exploring funding opportunities. As a consequence of this action, we have now agreed to sell the leasehold interest on five of our stores to a major fashion retailer. The five stores are Blanchardstown, Llantrisant, London Colney, Oxford Street, and Swindon."
The Tainted Archive can reveal, exclusively that it is NEW LOOK who have bought the lease on all five stores - this has not yet been announced but I was told so by a disgruntled member of Borders staff.
To be honest though I've suspected this was on the cards. The staff at Llantrisant Borders are wonderful but the writings been on the wall - first some of Borders floor space was taken over by GAME, shelves were being left empty, GAME were allowed to set up one of those guitar heroes thingies in the middle of the store and book browsers were driven away by the awful electrionic noise made by all the kids playing on the demonstration game, books ordered would fail to arrive and the normally decent western section shrank to six bloody books, five of them Louis L'amour.
It's all so very bloody sad.