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Borders ‘store closing’ sales attract shoppers

Bargain hunters were out in force this weekend as liquidation sales began at 200 Borders locations slated to close as part of the company’s bankruptcy filing.

The affected stores — about one-third of the bookseller’s locations — are expected to close by the end of April. Twenty-one underperforming stores in Southern California will be shut, including stores in Sherman Oaks, Century City, Long Beach and Orange.

Huge “store closing” and “everything must go” posters covered the windows at Borders in Pasadena and Glendale, which were bustling with customers Sunday. Many sections were already picked over, with shelves left bare and items such as notebooks, journals and photo albums strewn about.

Most items were discounted 20% to 40%, with markdowns expected to increase in coming weeks.

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“As long as there’s a deal, I’m going to take advantage of it,” said Jordan Francke, 27, who was checking out the games section at the Glendale store.

“It’s just the changing landscape of literature these days. It’s all electronic,” Francke, a television schedule coordinator, said of the chain’s bankruptcy. “I can only imagine it’s a struggle for a place like Borders to stay relevant.”

That’s a harsh reality for regular customers such as Kathleen O’Reilly, 52, who was at the Pasadena Borders carrying a shopping basket laden with discounted stationery and magazines.

The Pasadena resident said she was “old school” and enjoyed seeing and touching books before making a purchase. She said she would miss visiting the store with her teenage daughter.

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“I spend several days a week here,” said O’Reilly, a college counselor at a high school. “I actually debated whether I even wanted to come because I was worried I’d be too upset to see the store torn apart.”

Business is expected to continue as usual on the company’s website and at stores that aren’t closing.

After a slew of competitive blunders and missteps in the last decade, Borders Group Inc. found itself in trouble and had to cut staff, shut stores and shake up its top management.

Critics said the company botched its move into the digital age, causing sales and earnings to plummet. At the same time, mass merchants including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. became major players in the book-selling market, often offering lower prices than Borders and rival Barnes & Noble Inc.

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But Borders maintains it isn’t done for good. In a letter e-mailed to customers and posted on the company’s website last week, Borders President Mike Edwards said the company hoped to emerge from Chapter 11 as “the destination of choice.”

About 6,000 of the chain’s roughly 19,000 workers will be laid off as part of the closures. Among them is Rich Kilbury, who was pushing a cart stacked high with books at the Pasadena location Sunday.

“It’s depressing, but we kind of saw it coming,” he said. “Business had dropped off.”

The promise of discounts attracted Victoria Rose to the Pasadena store, where she was browsing mystery and thriller books. The 60-year-old high school English teacher said she was never a regular customer because she could find a better selection and lower prices elsewhere.

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“I rarely come here,” she said. “Between Amazon and Vroman’s, I’m well-taken care of.”

andrea.chang@latimes.com


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