I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but Borders Singapore closed its doors today.
Ravi I stopped by to mourn the passage of what might be the last Borders in the world (the status of the Kuala Lumpur and Dubai stores is unclear) at the Parkway Plaza location’s going out of business sale on Saturday night.
We visited the Boston Downtown Crossing location at about the same moment in the death knells (2ish days before close) and the differences were pretty astounding.
- Everything was 90% off
- Books were still sorted into “sections”–fiction, computer, biography, etc with some books willy-nilly but mostly still best found in “their” section
- There were NO kids picture books, no young reader chapter books and very little YA left
- There was a reasonable romance/erotica selection left
- There was a small sci-fi/fantasy selection
- There was a reasonable biography section left
- It was very picked over…one floor of the store was entirely closed off, and about half of the first floor was similarly closed
- The fixtures were for sale…basically anything not alive or nailed down was for sale
- The number of people in the store was relatively small
- The selection was fairly esoteric with few “big” names or titles left
- The mood was fairly sober…it was quiet, you could peruse at your leisure and there was plenty of personal space to go around
**Worth noting–I also stopped at a closing Borders in Seattle and had about the same experience…very little selection, sections still in place, a quiet resigned air over the smallish number of patrons.
- Everything was 70% off and that was to be the maximum discount
- Sections were a thing of the past…there were some clumps of books together…a vague kids section, a vague sci-fi fantasy section, a semi romance/thriller/true crime section, the travel books, and the rest was chaos
- There seemed to be a disproportionate number of books by authors like Janet Evanovich (especially her last two novels), Charlaine Harris (what, you guys don’t watch/read the true blood series?), and others.
- It was a wall to wall zoo of people, making moving about difficult (especially trying to defend my pregnant and prominent stomach from being slammed into from other people’s shopping baskets), browsing next to impossible, and oxygen harder to come by that I imagine it is on the top of Everest.
- Fixtures did not seem to be for sale
- About 1/3 of the store was ringed off, but people seemed to ignore the closed signs and wander freely through those areas anyway.
- Many books weren’t even shelved anymore…random baskets of books populated and ringed the “open” area of the store, sometimes making it hard to tell if it was a person’s individual basket or just an abandoned selection of books
- The employees were only focused on moving the queue of purchasers and not the books still on the shelves…why bother, after all?
- It was, in short, a chaotic pit of kiasuism, each person there to procure whatever books they could get their hands on at such a massive discount, and woe betide anyone who got in their way.
Why the difference?
Please understand this is my attempt at making meaning of the differences between the two experiences…while I do have plenty of facts, some of what I’m going to say is projection or conjecture.
First of all, Singapore doesn’t really have sales. Sure, they have the Great Singapore Sale, where the occasional bargain can be found, Xmas sales, CNY sales, etc. But I almost never see something for less than 50%, and 50% is cause for shock. Clearance racks like we have back home just don’t exist. So I have to imagine that the chance to get things for 70% off is unheard of and part of the massive draw.
Secondly, Boston had more time to mourn. The US Borders closure happened over months, not weeks. When Wheelock closed, we were told initially that the chain was still fine, or that they had at least 6 more months. But things then unraveled and fell apart completely within weeks. It was shocking to behold and baffling to watch. So there was never a chance to pop in and take our time at picking over the stock as they did in Boston…rather in Singapore we just had a free-for-all.
What’s next for Borders Singapore
In the US, Barnes and Noble, Border’s largest competitor bought the naming rights and customer lists. One presumes they’ll kill the former and exploit the latter. There is NO benefit to them bringing back the Borders brand for them…they most likely bought the naming rights to ensure that Borders is no more.
In Singapore, the chain Popular bought the naming rights. They own several brands, including Harris, and Prologue (which ran the tacky “Borderless Sale” right after Borders Wheelock closed–a lame typical Singapore sale that meant 5 titles that no one wanted were “on sale”). Unlike in the US, there is no one major competitor brand, and they might benefit from the brand recognition that using “Borders” could provide. Unlike B&N, there is no benefit to Popular buying the naming rights just to kill the name.
I took a photo of the chaos of the Singapore Borders closure, but the picture seems to have vanished off the phone or was accidentally deleted. So instead I offer up my last picture of Borders Boston (Downtown Crossing).
I think I’ve mentioned before that Borders has been a part of my life and one of my go-to stores for years. I will miss them, even as I concede that in the US I always shopped at both B&N and Borders (as well as Amazon), and that here in Singapore, they were my third choice after Kinokuniya and Page One.