Borders books changing a bit to increase sales

ECONOMIC & NAVIGATION & SIGHTSEEING

April 20, 2008|By JAY HANCOCK

I'm worried about my favorite bookstore. Borders Group is having some financial issues, just got a capital infusion and has said the company might be sold. Its relatively new chief executive officer, George L. Jones, isn't from the book business and is revamping inventory to increase sales and profitability.

Borders' decision to cut back on audio CDs is already obvious in its Columbia store, where you'll see lots of empty space in the music section.

"We do have an inventory program under way, where we're really doing our best to have in our stores products that customers want - that sell," said Anne Roman, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company's director of corporate affairs. "Any physical store has to be smart about what it offers and has to be smart about what customers are buying."

The company also is reducing in-store book titles. Does that mean it's going to focus only on best sellers?

"We are still retaining our commitment" to a broad selection of book titles, Roman said. No sign of a big book-inventory change in Columbia. Still plenty of titles in the history section.

The company's policy of having more book covers face out from the shelf - instead of lining them up spine-by-spine - has come to Maryland. This is especially true in cooking and travel. Last year, Borders lost $20 million on shoplifting, so it has put almost all its DVDs - a big theft item - in security jackets. It is also trying to boost sales by putting more impulse-purchase items near the checkout line.

It's launching an online bookstore, which will have huge selection. But that's not the same as being able to buy a great, obscure book off the shelf. Don't cut back too much, Borders.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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