Ann Arbor-based book giant Borders Group Inc. will release its fourth-quarter earnings report after the market closes this afternoon. Anticipation for the report is high in the midst of financial turmoil for the once-dominant retailer.

Borders management will address investors and analysts in a conference call tomorrow at 8 a.m., where it is expected that officials will outline the company’s new business strategy.

Already facing sliding sales and a daunting debt load, Borders tried to find a buyer and failed last March. In early January, shortly after revealing that sales for its usually stellar 9-week holiday period were down 11.7 percent from the previous year, the company replaced its CEO and a number of other high-level managers.

With the economy working against them, the new team has so far struggled to turn things around.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 900 Borders employees have lost their jobs. The company has also announced several store closings, including high-profile locations in Chicago on Michigan Avenue and in downtown Detroit.

Borders Group stock, which traded mostly in the $20 to $25 range between 2004 and 2006, has been on the decline since. The stock closed at $.65 per share yesterday, and is facing the possibility of delisting from the stock exchange.

At the annual meeting scheduled to be held in May, shareholders will be asked to approve a reverse stock split, which would consolidate individual shares to increase value and, ideally, prevent the stock from being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

The NYSE has already extended its deadline to June 30 for meeting its stock listing requirements, since the economic crisis has put many companies in danger of being delisted.

Local independent book stores are experiencing the same decline as chain retailers like Borders.

Karl Pohrt owns Shaman Drum Bookshop on State Street in Ann Arbor. Along with the state of the economy and the shrinking place for print media in the attention span of today’s consumers, Pohrt said big booksellers suffer from the same “shift to Internet sales” that has recently hurt independent bookstores like Shaman Drum.

“It’s my contention that the book business, as a business model, doesn’t work very well for anybody,” he said. “That’s independent bookshops as well as large chain bookstores.”

Pohrt said he is sympathetic for Borders, whose flagship store is around the corner from his own shop.

Amazon.com, the online retailer widely believed to be Borders’s biggest foe, has had enormous success despite the economic downturn. On the day after Christmas, an Amazon.com press release hailed this holiday sales season as its “best ever.” Fourth quarter profits were up 8.7 percent from last year for the company — considerably higher than analysts had predicted.

Today’s report will include data for the 13-week fiscal quarter that ended on Jan. 31, 2009.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.