Sign of the Times, II

Two big Borders stores in my area — the one in Westwood Village and the one in Thousand Oaks — are closing, holding "everything must go sales." They may only be part of the first wave. The Los Angeles Times reports that Borders is having a severe liquidity problem that could lead to more store closures.

Borders Group Inc., the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain, lost more than a fifth of its market value Friday after saying it had delayed payments to some publishers while trying to avert a liquidity crisis.

Borders shares sank 26 cents, or 22%, to 90 cents, the biggest drop in more than two years. The shares have retreated 24% this year.

The company said last month that it was in talks to refinance debt and might violate its credit agreements in the first quarter if negotiations failed. Borders reiterated Friday that it couldn't guarantee that its initiatives would be successful. If the refinancing fails, the chain may face a "liquidity shortfall" in the next quarter, said Mary Davis, a Borders spokeswoman.

"The timing certainly raises eyebrows," said Peter Wahlstrom, an analyst with Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. Bookstores are typically most flush with cash at the end of the holiday shopping season, when they can stock lower inventories for the slow winter months, he said.

"If they are doing this at the end of December, it's more concerning," Wahlstrom said.

Borders is in discussions with potential lenders that would provide funds through the start of 2012, the Ann Arbor, Mich., company said Dec. 9. Borders also said it was looking to raise money through asset sales and cost reductions.

If Borders doesn't find additional lenders, the company may have to accelerate store closures, Wahlstrom said.

Borders and larger rival Barnes & Noble Inc. face growing competition as consumers download more digital books on electronic devices such as Inc.'s Kindle. Borders has reported three quarterly losses in a row as sales and its store count shrank.

2 thoughts on “Sign of the Times, II”

  1. The apocalyptic extrapolation that booktores and print publishers are all about to fall into an abyss because the Borders chain is foundering is a very extreme prediction that ignores many other facts.
    1. Borders will probably go out of business because they were always superfluous. There were too many chain bookstores and Borders had nothing to distinguish themselves from the others.
    2. Borders has been in bad shape for years, before ebooks were a viable commodity.
    3. Some Marginal bookstores (and other businesses, too) always fail in an economic contraction.
    4. Ebooks don’t yet represent even 10% of the total number of books sold. Plenty of bookstores will still be needed to serve the market for printed books.
    5. It is always a mistake to make a an economc prediction during either an economic bust or bubble, as both are anomalous conditions that don’t last.
    6.Crown Books, a major chain, went bust in the 90s. The rest of the industry didn’t follow.


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