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Deadline Detroit | 10 Years After Borders Death, Detroit-area Independent Bookstores Are Showing Resilience

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As the business landscape evolves, small players can outlive the giants by cultivating niches, loyalty and dexterity. This reality is evident a decade after Borders Group, Inc. made its last sales.


Pages Bookstore Author Event on September 21 at the Grand River Avenue store in Northwest Detroit. (Photo: Facebook)

The Michigan-based retailer, bankrupt since September 2011, was acquired in 1992 by Kmart Corp., another defunct brand. Crain’s Blogger Amy Elliott Bragg on Saturday remembers “the Ann Arbor-born bookstore chain beloved by many of my nerdy suburban teenage comrades.”

In its early days, Borders, founded in 1971, was known for its advanced inventory management system, but autopsies of the company’s failures diagnosed its overinvestment in physical media like CDs and DVDs and its underinvestment. in e-commerce (which the company actually outsourced to Amazon for a while). …

While Barnes & Noble may be just a shadow of its former big-box bookstore glory, a prediction made by Crain in 2011 – that the end of Borders could be the start of a thriving independent bookstore scene. – seems to have been correct, if the local Beat stores, Source Booksellers, Pages Bookshop, Literati Bookstore, Detroit Book City, 27th Letter Books and Book Suey are all metrics.


Cary Loren: “Bookstores are not the kind of business that lends itself to mass merchandising.” (Photo: Facebook / Sue Rynski)

Here’s how a brave survivor said it 10 years ago premonitory article:

Cary Loren owns The Book Beat in Oak Park, in business for 30 years. Controlling 3,500 square feet – compared to 25,000 square feet typically used by Borders – he said, small bookstores might be the right recipe.

“I was here before the big box craze started and I’m still here,” he said. “What we’re learning here is that bookstores may not be the kind of business that lends itself to mass merchandising.

“There is a place for e-books and Amazon, but there is also a place for people to develop their minds, to get acquainted with the culture. A place that talks about intelligence.”

Hear hear! And don’t forget: buy local.


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