In the same week that Borders Group, Inc. reported a 17.6-percent drop in sales from last year, officials from the Ann Arbor-based bookstore announced that they would consider a potential merger with competitor Barnes & Noble, Inc.
A report filed last week to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by Bill Ackman, owner of 37 percent of Borders’s stock, states that Ackman would be willing to finance a merger between the two companies.
Mary Davis, corporate affairs manager for Borders, wrote in an e-mail interview on Friday that Borders executives welcome Ackman’s proposal to facilitate the potential merger.
“We welcome his participation,” Davis wrote. “We have previously expressed to Barnes & Noble our interest in such a business combination, and we look forward to continuing those discussions.”
Though many of the company’s figures were in the red during its second and third quarter this year, Borders officials say they remain optimistic that its online and digital offerings will boost revenue.
The chain of bookstores reported 219 store closings last January, including 200 Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores, according to a 2009 article in The Associated Press. The impact on jobs and employee salary is still unclear.
In an e-mail interview in November, Davis declined to comment on layoffs and pay cuts but stated that the company has no immediate plans to eliminate jobs.
A Borders store in Farmington Hills, Mich. announced its closures on Nov. 15, according to the store’s general manager Keith Hewitt. Davis confirmed that the store will officially close on Jan. 7.
Engineering freshman Emily Carroll, a resident of West Bloomfield, Mich. which is located next to Farmington Hills, said she is upset about the local store closing.
“That means the only place I can really buy books is Barnes & Noble, and that means I have less of a choice,” Carroll said, adding that most of her West Bloomfield High School teachers relied on Borders in the past to reserve books for their classes.
Apart from the potential merger, Borders CEO Mike Edwards said in the company’s second quarter report that he is looking to new programs — including a new rewards program — to “excite” consumers during the holiday shopping season, Edwards added that the company will focus on the online and digital market.
“We are focused on increasing our share of the eBook market by growing our digital offerings to position Borders as the preferred destination for digital reading,” Edwards wrote in the report.
Edwards went on to say that the company is focusing on improving the in-store experience by adding more non-book products as well as “providing an escape for our customers through an inspiration in-store environment and consistent customer service.”
Some of the new non-book products available include products from Build-A-Bear Workshop, a popular children’s store.
Davis told the Daily that Borders is pleased with its partnership with Build-A-Bear, and the company’s third quarter results tout a 6.6-percent sales increase in children’s toys and games from the previous quarter.
Borders stores hosted Build-A-Bear-themed store parties in November in order to raise awareness about the new partnership.
“The Build-A-Bear event went well. There was good attendance and stores reported the kids had a great time,” Davis said. “There was singing, dancing, crafts and other activities. We hold many such parties in our stores throughout the year.”
In addition to themed parties, the company is improving its in-store experience by offering live musical performances.
Ann Arbor’s Borders on East Liberty Street hosted a live performance by Michael Franti and Spearhead last month as part of the company’s “Live at ‘01’” program, which broadcasts live performances online.
According to Davis, the program allows people who cannot attend the event to still enjoy the performance.
“We’ve had many singers and entertainers at the store as part of ‘01’,” Davis said. “We’ve recently added a Facebook component where we broadcast the event live on Facebook and participants can comment during the performance.”