I still remember the mom-and-pop neighborhood bookstore I would spend hours in as a girl. It was the epitome of the indie book shop. There was a fat lazy cat lounging in the stacks. The place smelled like a library. I would sit in the aisle thumbing through Choose Your Own Adventure books, trying to decide which ones to buy. (If you don’t know the series, you really missed out.) The books were used. This was before Half Price Books and websites overtook the used-book industry.
As the small shops closed, I began shopping at HPB and big box stores (Barnes & Noble and Borders). While I’m no fan of corporations forcing independent shops out of business, I am sad for Borders. The people who work in the Borders near me are kind, helpful people. Now they are worried about finding new jobs.
As a crafter, the deep discounts at Borders were beneficial for me. In addition to getting 30 percent off on last night’s purchase, I got another 10 percent off for being a Borders member. I left with two big bags of notebooks that I will soon customize and turn into inventory for my Etsy shop. The people in line behind me carried large stacks of novels and other items.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, but I think this could still end well. I spoke with a Borders employee last night. She said while her shop usually hit about $10,000 in sales in one month, they had already sold $90,000 in a week. That ought to tell big bookstores everywhere the answer – lower your markups and people will return.
The shop worker told me she is hoping to be placed at another Borders, but there was no guarantee. She said there are more employees than positions for them to move into. Having been through nearly 18 months of unemployment during this recession, I can certainly feel her pain. Maybe, if enough of us take advantage of the sales, some of the Borders locations can remain open. If not, perhaps the mom-and-pop shops will finally be able to return.