Borders Makes an UnBEARable Decision

In about 5 seconds you’re all going to hate me for the terrible pun in the title. Borders (or, as it was known back in my day, “Borders Books, Music, Movies and Cafe”), has hit upon the solution to their customer and sales woes. Is it to improve their book side? Shape up ebooks into a fighting machine? Nope…they’ve thought waaaaaaaaay outside the box on this one.

Borders has made the logical leap that people come to bookstores for books, sometimes a movie or a CD, a good cup of coffee…and a Build-a-Bear??? Yes, they are giving valuable floor space to BUILD A BEAR workshop. Space that could be going to ebook displays, bestsellers, bargain books, etc will be going to building stuffed animals. This is officially the dumbest idea in the history of bookselling.

Businessweek specifically says:

Borders Group Inc., the second- largest U.S. bookstore chain, will start selling items from Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc., relying less on books for sales as more people use electronic reading devices.

Most of Borders’ more than 500 stores will create sections next month dedicated to Build-a-Bear, the maker of kits kids can use to craft stuffed animals, Chief Executive Officer Michael Edwards said in an interview. The new areas also will feature books and DVDs tied to the brand.

I wish I had been in the meeting that decided this was a good idea. It’s hard to fathom the leap of logic that gets any organization from “ebooks are eating into our bottom line” to “stuffed animals will save us all”. Imagine how the conversation might have gone:

Operations Guy: Sales are declining rapidly, and we’re in the red on many stores.
Sales Guy: We should sell things! More things! People love stuff! Do we have any more of those $25 cardboard boxes from Paperchase around?
Marketing Guy: No, we need something people have heard of…something with brand name appeal that ties into our core business.
Operations Guy: Well do it fast! We’re close to burning the poetry section for heat this winter.
Sales Guy: Let’s sell to kids! Everyone loves kids books!
Marketing Guy: Well, I met the Build-A-Bear marketing guys at a conference last week…either we do a cross promotion with them or I owe them a keg. I say we do the promotion.

Sales Guy: Clearly, our work here is done.

Seriously…I was saying just today that I am glad I will never work for Borders again. However, it’s clear they’re deep in the weeds and have lost their way. So, Borders…call me. We’ll do lunch. And I’ll get it through your thick skulls that do-it-yourself stuffed animals ARE NOT GOING TO SAVE YOUR BOOKSTORE.

Via Businessweek

Categories: eBooks, News


4 replies

  1. I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry … it is such a sad sign of desperation on the part of Borders.

    For Build-a-Bear it is smart – integration is a great way to reinforce their brand and sell more stuff.

  2. Wow. Reminds me of when SGI tried to compete head-to-head in the PC space. Note that SGI stock is no longer trading on the Big Board. Or indeed any board at all.

  3. You know, when I lived in Ann Arbor I used to spend a lot of time in their flagship downtown Ann Arbor store. Ann Arbor is, of course, a huge university town. I’m sure that the Build-a-Bear section will fit in perfectly between the huge numbers of technical books and the sci-fi/fantasy section. (insert sarcastic tone here…)

    Amazingly dumb decision. I see the benefit for Build-a-Bear. I fail to see the synergy for Borders, though.


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