Borders' demise could pave way for expansion of independent bookstores - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Borders' demise could pave way for expansion of independent bookstores

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Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011 4:00 pm | Updated: 2:54 pm, Mon Oct 17, 2011.

The death of a retail chain like Borders sometimes opens the door for competitors to fill the void by opening shops of their own.

But the local operators of independent bookstores say they don't expect an influx of shops in the East Valley that focus on new books. They say the rise of online booksellers like Amazon and the growing popularity of electronic books mean big-box bookstores will become increasingly rare.

Still, Borders' demise could pave the way for some independent bookstores to expand.

Arizona seems to have fewer independent booksellers than other places and the loss of Borders could trigger some growth, said Cindy Dach, general manager of Tempe's Changing Hands.

"Absolutely I think we're going to see some used bookstores open up because the startup of that is somewhat easier than it is to open a new bookstore," Dach said.

Changing Hands has considered a second site on and off for about five years and more seriously in the last two years, Dach said. The store's focus is along the Metro rail line in Phoenix because bookstores are a good fit with transit systems, she said. The East Valley is less of a priority for expansion because Dach said Changing Hands and the Bookmans in Mesa seem to serve the area well.

The changing business model of bookselling would require a new store to be smaller than the Tempe location, Dach said.

Bookmans is responding to the book industry's woes by expanding its merchandise mix, said spokesman Sheila Kressler-Crowley said. It's shrinking space for used music to add musical instruments, sheet music and sporting goods.

"Basically, anything you can't digitally download," she said.

Tucson-based Bookmans didn't welcome the end of a competitor.

Books that originate from places like Borders end up at used bookstores, Kressler-Crowley said. The loss of the nation's second-largest book chain could limit the supply of newer material flowing to places like Bookmans.

"Anytime a bookstore closes, it hurts other bookstores," she said.

It's not the only time local stores have felt injured by the chain. Borders located stores in a way that seemed to target local sellers like Bookmans and Changing Hands, Kressler-Crowley said.

Borders opened a massive store in the 1990s in downtown Tempe, next to where Changing Hands began in 1974. The homegrown store responded by opening a second location at McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road in 1998. Two years later, Changing Hands closed its downtown outlet.

"Truth be told, Borders put a lot of local businesses out of business when they first came around," Kressler-Crowley said.

Its fortunes fell in recent years, and it closed its downtown Tempe store in 2008. The chain announced in July it would liquidate its final 400 stores after its lenders rejected a buyout offer.

Changing Hands has seen some new customers who lost their Borders and aren't close to the one remaining national chain, Barnes & Noble. Online book sales are rising but there's an even bigger increase in people browsing online and then buying their picks at a store, Dach said. Many readers still enjoy chatting up employees who appreciate books and can turn them on to new titles and authors, she said.

"People still want the tactile experience and they still want that community experience," Dach said.

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