Friday, March 21, 2008

Borders in Cash Crunch

Wrong Size To Thrive

Borders needs cash.

Guardian UK

The US high-street chain Borders is facing a cash crunch that may force it to put itself up for sale as music sales migrate to the internet and discount retailers muscle in on the books market.

Borders said yesterday that it was suffering a funding crisis as credit became "prohibitively expensive or entirely unavailable". It has borrowed $42.5m (£21.5m) from its biggest shareholder, Pershing Square Capital Management.

Operating profits at Borders' 515 superstores in the US dived from $111m to $56.9m last year. After taking into account exceptional items, the company made a $157m loss.

The firm has called in JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch to advise on strategic options, including the sale of the entire company or of individual divisions. Its shares dived by 25% to $5.34.

Borders' chief executive, George Jones, said: "The company determined that additional capital was required to execute our operating plan, and as a result we began to explore various financing options. The current credit crisis has made many of these alternatives prohibitively expensive or entirely unavailable."

In common with other US retailers, booksellers are struggling with a tough economic environment, which has prompted many shoppers to cut back on their discretionary spending.

The biggest US books chain, Barnes & Noble, revealed a 10% fall in annual profits yesterday to $135m. Its like-for-like sales fell by 0.5% in the final quarter and it warned that sales for the coming quarter were likely to be "slightly negative" - partly because of tough comparisons with last year's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Borders ranks second in book sales to Barnes & Noble. It was founded in 1971 by two brothers, Tom and Louis Borders, who opened a second-hand bookshop in the university town of Ann Arbor, west of Detroit.

The company has traditionally stocked a mixture of books, CDs and DVDs. But it has been reassigning space in reaction to a steep fall in music sales, which were down by 14.2% on a like-for-like basis in the fourth quarter.

In an interview last year, Borders' chief executive blamed competition from cut-price megastores such as Wal-Mart and CostCo for eating into book sales.
I don't have a problem with this.

I hate to see any bookstore in trouble. I have shopped at Borders when I was in a hurry, however I avoid shopping there routinely. Their prices are ALWAYS too high. I can get stuff cheaper via Amazon, or at damn near any physical bookstore. The books Borders stocks, shows me they don't know what they're doing.

From their Science Fiction section to Buddhism, from Humor to Unix and Messaging (and DNS and NTP), from Biology to Screenwriting, Borders consistently fails -- I say three times, fails, Fails, FAILS -- to carry the authors and books I consider the best in their field.

They carry someone whom the whole world has known for 30-40 years is the best. But they fail to carry the person who actually leads the field. Barnes and Noble carries the best, because they carry everyone. And the small bookstore carries the best, because that's how the small bookstores survive, by specializing in only the best in particular fields, or by carrying everything in one or two fields.

Boarders tries to be a little bit of everything to everyone. MEGA-FAIL.

People want to know who you are. Take a position, dammit. Be a professional.

Stand for something.