Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Closing the Borders

Will Borders be the next store on The Promenade to go kaput? The company's stock is trading below 50 cents a share and holiday sales were down double digits from last year. We've already seen national chains such as Storehouse Furniture, Bombay Company, and Steve & Barry's with locations in Silver Spring go down in the past couple years, and there's a real possibility Borders could be next against the wall. (Pier 1, which has a store on Fenton is in the crapper, too.)



As the only store on Ellsworth that remotely interests me, that would be a damn shame. Of course, I enjoy it strictly in the place-to-kill-time sense, as anything I could buy there I would rather order from Amazon, as it's generally cheaper and tax-free. (Now, thanks to my phone, I actually do this while I am still in the store...) I guess therein lies the source of Borders' predicament. People blame big chains like Borders for the downfall of local bookstores like Olsson's, but apparently Borders is equally screwed.

I don't even know what they'd do if that Borders closed. Who could they possibly get to rent that space in this economic climate? At this point, maybe a Salvation Army store or soup kitchen. Optimally, we'd get another bookstore in its place, or maybe a bookstore/restaurant fusion like Busboys & Poets. The last thing we need is more empty storefronts. I believe there's some spaces in that complex that have never had tenants.

Speaking of the retail apocalypse, I was in Montgomery Mall earlier today and was shocked how many stores have recently closed, even in the time since I was last there only a week or so ago.



30 comments:

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Standing in Borders and ordering from Amazon might be part of the problem. I browse Borders but buy at Amazon myself. Maybe we need to think and buy local a bit more. Those taxes we're saving actually would be going toward schools, roads, etc.

Sligo said...

That would be defying the laws of economics. If they need the money, I'm sure they'll tax me in some other way, or they can pay for that stuff with all the money they are supposedly going to get from slots.

Sligo said...

Besides, for all we know the Borders location in Silver Spring is doing great. Spending more there isn't going to rescue a national chain.

Vagrarian said...

A friend who works at the SS Borders has long warned me that the chain is teetering on the brink.

While visiting family in Hagerstown over the holiday, I happened to mention that and there was a terrible outcry; the Borders up there is doing great business and serves as a hangout for some of the more intelligent folks up there. The thought of it closing created mourning.

But yeah, most of my new books come from Amazon, although the bulk of my book-buying is at used bookstores and library book sales.

Dan Reed said...

The Gaithersburg Borders is already closing due to "lower-than-expected" sales, though I think the location has something to do with it, being in a crappy strip mall on 355, away from Rio and Kentlands where people go just to "hang out" as they would on the Promenade.

("The Promenade" is OUT for 2k9 as the preferred slang term for that street, by the way.)

If Borders WERE to kick the bucket, though, Busboys and Poets would be nice. They'd probably do much better here than they would in Hyattsville.

Anonymous said...

If the DTSS Borders closed, then Foulger-Pratt would likely divide it up into smaller spaces if they couldn't find a tenant. In this economy, they might even market the space with both options (intact or subdivided) just to see what kind of nibbles they got.

I agree--Busboys & Poets would do a phenomenal business there.

Sligo said...

I disagree that "The Promenade" is out. "Hellsworth" just seems snarky. "The Promenade" is made great by the tinge of irony. I'm not even sure which actually came first.

wombat said...

So I guess I'm the only one who actually makes an effort to check if I can buy something at Borders before I order it on line? Unfortunately, the majority of the time, they don't have it. I'm doing my best not to be part of the problem but if they don't have stuff, ordering it through them just doesn't make sense compared to how easy it is to use Amazon instead.

Sligo said...

When I do buy something at Borders, it is using one of their 30% off coupons from the Internet.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I do believe you can make a difference by actually buying your books, calendars, videos, etc., at Borders in Silver Spring, if they have what you want. Even with a coupon, you're helping the community by keeping our DTSS alive.

Corona said...

It would help if the Borders in Silver Spring wasn't so subpar by Borders standards.

I generally enjoy buying books from bookstores more than buying them on Amazon. Reason being, I usually buy a book when I'm finished one and ready to read another. I go into the store, peruse, get a book, go home, and start reading.

But it seems like everytime I go into the SS Borders, unless the book is a new release or well known, it's out of stock. I bought alot of books for Christmas this year, and searching Borders Silver Spring inventory broought up alot of good books that were out of stock.

Compartively, many of these books were in stock at the Barnes and Nobles in DC near Metro Center, and/or the Barnes and Borders in Rockville.

I cannot stress enough how much I WANT to shop at the Border's in Silver Spring, but the store on a whole feels so much smaller than others (probably since so many others are two floors). It also doesn't help that the more annoying patrons of Hellsworth always like to hang out in the entrance to the store.

After awhile, it becomes worth the drive or metro to go somewhere else. And that's a shame.

Vagrarian said...

Corona has a point...I've often been frustrated by the inability to find books that are in print, but just not trendy bestsellers, at that Borders. And they sacrificed a lot of music space for cards and knickknacks, which I find annoying. I'm old-fashioned but I like actually having the CDs rather than just downloads.

On the topic of Montgomery Mall...a few months ago I was wandering Georgetown, taking pictures (mostly of Exorcist-related sights, I confess), and I was amazed at the number of empty storefronts there as well. I remember a time when vacant space there was a rarity, and now it's common. Sign o' the times, I guess.

laura said...

I'm convinced the Silver Spring Borders is the worst bookstore in DC - poor selection, lousy service, and half of the merch in stock has been mangled and misshelved by the godawful clients who litter the place.

Honestly, when it opened I was thrilled to have a nice bookstore within walking distance of my home and work, but it's not worth the long long lines, irritating patrons, and crappy selection. Sorry Silver Spring.

Nikki said...

As a former Border employee (6+ years, 4 different locations, including the soon-to-be-closed Gaithersburg location), I am both saddened and unsuprised at the state of the company. The SS store is crap, even by Borders standars. A lot of this has to do with the individual store management. I wish that store was more like their two downtown loctaions, rather than a crappy Borders Express. My sources tell me that that store will not be closing unless the entire chain goes under. Hopefully, the entire chain will be purchased by another company. I think a lot of the problems at that store have to do with the large theft and loitering problem they have at that location. It is what prompted the removal of the chairs in the store. It is a damn shame, that is for sure.

Anonymous said...

It's probably the same people that ruin the Majestic for everyone that are killing the SS Borders.

Thomas Hardman said...

The Barnes & Noble on Rockville Pike is still in business, and still has a fair amount of customers. I have almost always been able to find what I wanted there, though admittedly my needs are fairly simple. They also have a pretty good and rather large discontinued/discount section. Even though they're usually very crowded -- evidently it is some sort of singles hotspot, not that I am in the market for that -- you can almost always find a staffer without too much effort, and they're generally happy to help.

If they go under, I will be very disappointed.

I spent much of yesterday cruising around the East Rockville shopping centers. The parking lots seem half vacant. Even the McDonalds in Twinbrook was pretty much empty, as are many if not most of the fast-food places. I'm guessing that more people are either eating at home, or spending a little more money for higher quality food and much better service than they have come to expect from the surly churls staffing most drive-through windows.

Home Depot out here in Silver Spring 20906 has lots of available parking close to the doors, and instead of the row-after-row of construction trucks waiting to load, most of the customers seem to be soccer moms and middle-management men picking up a can of paint or a replacement door-knob or maybe a UPS for the office.

Last Saturday I was in the Glenmont "Staples" and I was the only customer in the place, which had maybe five people on staff. Apparently I was such a novel sight that half of these people practically charged at me, evidently thinking that I must have wandered in under the influence, or was trying to shoplift or rob the place. Instead, I paid cash for a USB harddrive. I think that might have been their only significant sale in the last few days, and probably their only sale on that day. Considering the mark-down, that can't be enough to cover even an hour of one of the staff's time, much less pay the rent or service the inventory stocking.

CNBC is talking about very widespread and mounting rumors that the whole big-box Hardware and Construction Supplies industry is about to suffer (and here I quote someone saying they specifically quote) "a massive crash". Can the big-box "sure we have that" stores be far behind?

So, assuming that all of the spiffy newness in terms of DTSS storefronts find themselves empty, well, sure they were just built and they're all done, but will anyone be able to scrape together the cash to pay upkeep?


This just in, 25-percent of all Option-ARM and subprime mortgages are 30 days delinquent. And Maryland's two foreclosure delay extensions expire... at close of business Friday. Within just one block on Aspen Hill Road there are five houses that have been for sale for 6 months. I bet they'll be bank-owned on Monday, instantly lowering their sale price by 10 percent and doing the same for all other houses within a 2-block radius. And reading the latest Sentinel legal section, over 150 "Trustee Sales" (repos and foreclosures)... and almost 60 "tax sales". Tax Sales mean that the place has been unsaleable for so long that the owner can't even pay the taxes... this hasn't been seen since the early 1930s around here.

I think that the DTSS Borders is the least of our worries.

Anonymous said...

Once again, we have people trying to say that "bad behavior" is a problem in downtown SS and contributes to the low quality of retail. Be warned that such thoughts are not tolerated by the Silver Spring-Takoma Park community -- they will get you classified as a classist, racist or "suburbanite" (one of the worst charges you can suffer!) and show a distinct lack of knowledge. Let's blame the Borders corporation, or some other corporation, for all the problems. Surely, the theft and loitering in that store is no worse than in any other community.

Anonymous said...

As long as Politics and Prose doesn't go out of business, I will be fine. Seriously, that bookstore is ten times better than any Borders or Barnes & Noble location. Better selection of non-fiction books. Better atmosphere for customers. Some famous authors have given talks at the Politics & Prose.

I know P&P is not in Silver Spring but from a regional perspective, the independent bookstores are priceless.

Chaz said...

I bought some nice wrapping paper and a few books as gifts in there before cmas. Their "paperchase" stuff is a nice alternative to papyrus brand gift stuff. And they seem to be carrying a lot of archie mcphee style knick knacks, and who dislikes a cat catapult?

I go to the SS Borders pretty often, and although I don't often buy much (totes agree that they are out of stock all the time), I've never noticed a "behavior" problem in there. For serious.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't really care if they crash and burn. The whole concept of the "prominade" is starting to annoy me. Yes, SS really needed a facelift but any new part of SS is just becoming a "franchise ghetto" with the same ole mall chain store and eateries. Except for the Lebanese Taverna (family owned but growing quickly into a franchise style place) there is just nothing to eat on that street that is not full of carbs and fat. It is all crap and does nothing for SS. All of the cool small businesses are driven out by the new and expensive storefronts. Next I expect to see my beloved Bonifant Street go under the wrecking ball. Farewell Thai Derm and Roger Miller. Where are we going to be able to buy a decent gun when that happens? :-)

ForestGlen said...

Wasn't Thomas Hardman the dude who was busted for assulting some lady on the Capitol Crescent Trail?

Buff said...

The problem with the SS Borders is that the store looks like a bomb exploded at all times. Trying to find anything in that store is pretty much impossible; apparently alphabetical order is a quaint, 20th century concept. I can spent about 5 minutes in there before the disorder drives me batty.

Anonymous said...

Anon says: "there is just nothing to eat on that street that is not full of carbs and fat."

And how are many of SS's most-beloved institutions -- Vicino, Tastee, Quarry House, Mi Rancho -- any different, other than being independently owned?(and that doesn't necessarily mean "locally owned," which is what everyone seems to prefer)

Thomas Hardman said...

> ForestGlen said...
>
> Wasn't Thomas Hardman the dude who was busted
> for assulting some lady on the Capitol Crescent Trail?

No. And don't libel me.

According to the FBI, Maryland State Police, and Montgomery County Department of Police, I have no arrest record.

Thomas Hardman, that is to say, ME, is a fine and upstanding candidate for elected office in the great State of Maryland and County of Montgomery.

And you are perhaps a troll hiding behind an alias?

ForestGlen said...

Hmm...yes as a Republican I see...good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that people who hang out in DTSS are poorly behaved, per se. There's just a lot of noise pollution from teenagers who don't know much vocabulary besides anything that's a curse or sexually explicit.

Springvale Roader said...

I'd hate to see the Borders close, even if it is a miserable excuse of a store compared to nicer Borders. Despite the limited selection, I still like browsing, and like Vagrarian, I like CD's. I'll be sorry to see them go, because (as with records of yore), just flipping through the racks is an enjoyable way to find an undiscovered treasure. Browsing online just ain't the same.

I do agree that the service at Borders is terrible -- when you can find someone on the floor, that is.

Finally, I think that as our nation and the world hurtle into a new Great Depression, we will be seeing a lot of non-essential stores close. Personally, I find books and music essential for living, but they are not essential for surviving.

Fasten your seatbelts: it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Anonymous said...

I asked a clerk in Borders, and she said they were meeting or exceeding their store targets. If that's true, it would take the chain failing, and not being bought out by B&N (a possibility).

I used to rag on the SS Borders as much as anybody, but they've gotten their act together in the children's section *and* they're a heck of a lot better than a lot of the other Borders locations out there. Yeah, sure, some are better. But compare it to, say, the Pentagon City one or other's that serve a comparable customer base, and it more than holds its own.

For parents, Borders is a great resource for trying out new books. We do usually buy with the coupons, but Amazon isn't always significantly cheaper and sometimes we want instant gratification. So we do our best to support it, particularly in light of the public goods it provides as a place to relax, browse, and even read.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know if Borders is going to close or not, but I do know that I was there this weekend and many of the shelves were half empty in places, as in they weren't being restocked. It is definitely possible that they were just transitioning books or something, but it looked like they just weren't restocking their supply.

TheTruth said...

I hope the Borders doesnt close but if it does Silver Spring could really use a Lucky Strike - like the one they have in Chinatown.