Lessons to Learn From the Borders Bankruptcy

  • Jul 22, 2011

Austin, Texas: I read with great sadness about the closing of the Borders book chain as they liquidate their stores due to bankruptcy. I used to love spending time shopping the latest mystery novels and buying my kid’s children’s books to read with them.

I stressed the words used to because it has probably been about six years since I have walked into a Borders store, as I mostly buy my books online through Amazon.com.

Obviously I wasn’t the only customer who switched to online book buying, so why did Borders’ management not notice this shift in buying preferences and make adjustments, like Barnes and Noble’s did?

Are you making the same management mistakes that befell Borders?

What can we learn from this fall from grace?

The biggest lesson is the failure to act. Surely, your company has seen changes in the past five to ten years in the way customers interact with you. Have you taken notice?

Are they still going to the same trade shows? I have seen trade show attendance drop dramatically from year-to-year at most of the shows I still exhibit at, and have cut many marginal shows from my schedule–with nominal difference to my bottom line.

Are they buying a higher percentage of product from your website compared to from your sales force or retail locations? Take a close look.

Can you close some marginal stores? Reduce store hours? Better train your telemarketers? Introduce a more convenient way to buy?

Are you studying and preparing for future trends? Look at trends in many industries and you will see seismic shifts. Are you paying attention to them, or burying your head in the sand–assuming people will continue to buy from you because they always have in the past?

If you are a middleman, how long will it be before your customers are able to buy direct more easily? Information is ubiquitous, omnipresent and free.

People are researching and buying real estate online.

They book their own travel online. Heck, I remember when we had a travel agent book our sales team’s travel schedules about a decade ago. Do you think they saw the shift coming?

They even shop for dating partners online–so don’t think that your industry is above and beyond the realm of obsolescence.

Take some time and envision where your industry will be in five years and in ten years. Then think about how that will affect your company.

Be pro-active. Take steps now to try new ways of marketing.

Social media–definitely. But that is only one step. It will not change an industry, just help you get noticed more easily.

Spend time and try to envision changes that have been taking place in your industry and others–and how they might apply to your own business.

This will require deep thought and some forecasting, but if you don’t plan for deep changes coming soon, you might be headed for the same future as Borders. If you take the time now, you might stay ahead of the curve, and be more like Barnes and Noble–who developed the Nook e-reader and BN.com to stave off competition from Amazon.com and live to fight on.

I hope you take this challenge and build your business for the coming decades.

  • Category: Blog, Retailer Incentives
  • Tags: Borders bankruptcy, business strategy, lessons to learn from Borders bankruptcy, managment ideas, marketing startegy, planned obsolescence, steps to take to succeed in this decade