The Borders Case

Posted: December 15, 2009 in Marketing

It has been a while since my last post, but the pace here was rather fast! Well,today I will briefly discuss on of the events that “consumed” 1 hour of my life last Sunday.

Apparently, those of you that live in UK know that Borders, the well known book-store, is about to close. What I did not know (and after finding out that all Kotler’s books were gone by the time I arrived at the store) was that their discounts for business books are just epic! This Sunday I got a 60% discount, resulting in me paying just 20 pounds, instead of almost 50. The case though is not this.

It is funny and sad, at the same time, to see hundreds of people literally looting Borders here in Glasgow (and I guess that this is not the only place). The discounts seem to work quite well, Borders will get rid of the stock, but I am not quite sure if all these people were about to buy any books before this event. We are talking about people who walk besides you, holding usually 3 to 10 books which, under other circumastances, they would have bought throughout a whole year possibly. When the price is falling, books turn almost into commodities, and spending a fiver for a book u don’t know (like I did) seems like a no-risk investment.

Wasn’t it possible for Borders to just lower the prices before? As one American friend told me (since I am quite unfamiliar with Borders, we don’t have any stores in Greece), Borders’ prices were always higher than the main competitor of the industry, Amazon. So, even when they had their student discounts (usually around 20% off) they would drop at the same level. It is a rather interesting thing to think what would have happened if Borders were just decreasing prices, or improve the feeling and the experience of being in a bookstore. However, I guess we will never know…quite ironically, I am quite sure that Borders have never experienced such a flow of customers, and they will never experience it again.

And all these link back to the competition between traditional channels and the web-based companies. In this era of diversified competition, where your business is actually subject to competition from every single place in the planet, you should watch out more about your strategies, regarding prices and adding customer value. Again, it is not my personal experience but I think I’m free to guess that Borders failed at both of these, and that is why they’re closing now.

P.S.: The underlying message of this was simple and had nothing to do with marketing: run to Borders and get some books, before they empty the place!

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