Borders to begin liquidating remaining stores

COSTA MESA — Natalie Goode topped off a shopping trip to South Coast Plaza on Tuesday by leisurely browsing through Borders, cup of coffee in hand.

Goode's is a habit still rooted in a changing retail landscape that she and customers like her won't be able to enjoy much longer.

Unable to find a financial backer in the era of online book sales, Borders asked for permission from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court this week to begin liquidating its remaining 399 stores.

But it was hard to see such writing on the wall Tuesday morning. Borders still hummed with customers, some filling the café's dozen tables and others browsing the larger-than-average bargain books section.

Soon enough, however, Goode will have to get her coffee-and-book fix elsewhere, but she worries about retail workers who will lose their jobs in an era of high unemployment.

Borders employs 42 workers at its two-level, 27,766-square-foot South Coast Plaza store, spokeswoman Beverly Morgan said in an email.

"That's the part that bothers me the most," said Goode, a Long Beach resident. "Not the part about people reading less — people will still read. I had no idea when Kindles came out what the impact on retail would be."

Cindy Carpenter, a Baltimore resident, was scanning shelves for the most interesting titles during her visit to the South Coast Plaza Borders.

"I think this will lead to a lot less people reading," she said.

Borders' main competitor, Barnes & Noble, will maintain a Costa Mesa presence. The New York-based retailer, which has also fallen on hard financial times, has a store at Metro Pointe.

Borders Group Inc. is seeking court approval to begin the liquidation process for its remaining stores on Friday, said Borders Group spokeswoman Mary Davis.

The liquidation of the 399 stores would be handled by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group, and would roll out through the end of September.

Whether employees are able to stay on until the end or not is up to the liquidators, Davis said.

She was unable to say when the South Coast Plaza Borders would close for good.

The demise of the Michigan-based bookseller, once a leading giant in the industry, is seen as a sign that printed material is fading — or at least giving way to online sales of both print and digital books.

Borders Group Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, had operated 1,249 Borders and Waldenbooks at the height of its success in 2003, according The Associated Press. It later announced that it would close more than 200 of its 642 stores.

For Goode, the time has come to buy an eReader, but she's not happy about it.

"I like to go in there and see a book," Goode said. "I want to touch a book. But I guess all that's going to change."

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