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Could Borders Rise From the Grave?

The Borders bankruptcy saga is winding to a close, and it’s about to go into its final weeks.

One of the last parts of Borders was sold off earlier this week: the IP.  The liquidator specialists Hilco Streambank supervised the sale of the Borders name, URL, as well as other brand names that Borders own (B. Daltons,Waldenbooks, etc). The total raised was around $15 million. There’s no word yet on who bought the Borders name, just that Barnes & Noble were one of the bidders. Update: And that B&N bought most of the IP.

We won’t find out who bought what until Tuesday, and that raises an interesting question. What if someone bought the Borders website and name just to bring it back from the grave? It’s certainly possible. That’s not such a stretch because it’s happened before.

You might recall the death of Circuit City a few years back, or the collapse of CompUSA before that. Actually, you might have missed the deaths because neither gadget retailer appears to be dead. What happened was that someone bought the IP and started new companies under the old name. It made perfect sense, for obvious reasons.

And it would make even more sense for someone to buy Borders , B.Daltons, or Waldenbooks just to revive the brand with a new bookstore.

To be honest, I expect that we’ll find out on Tuesday that Barnes & Noble planned for this and bought the the trade names just t make sure no one did. They don’t need a new rival squatting on the name of the old.

On the other hand, it’s certianly pssible that B&N didn’t want to go high enough to outbid the other buyers. There were nine other bidders, including Berjaya Books, which operated Borders stores in Malaysia, and 8 other unidentified companies. Hilco reported that the group included major publishing companies and web-based retailers.

Let’s see what is announced Tuesday.

image by Nivaldo Arruda

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fjtorres September 16, 2011 um 4:09 pm

TigerDirect bought the CircuitCity and CompUSA names to use them as alternate portals to the onlne sales operation. They also bought and still operate two CompUSA stores: Miami and San Juan. The former because ts their hometown, the latter because it has always been absurdly profitable.

As for Borders, I would think Kobo or its parent, Indigo, would’ve put in a bid, though not necessarily a terribly big one.

BTW, word is the landlord of the San Juan Borders bid for and won the store lock, stock, and staff. (Same reason as with CompUSA.) They might have also bid for the name.

Nate Hoffelder September 16, 2011 um 5:07 pm

So who do you think would buy Borders? I think it would be fairly easy to build a storefront that sells stuff from Amazon and takes an affiliate’s commission.

fjtorres September 16, 2011 um 6:23 pm

Who would buy the name? Or who *should*?
Dunno. I’m not sure how high the bidding might go.
(Or how cheaply the names might go. The Borders name has some taint but the other two have some nostalgia value, especially B.Dalton.)

I do know two who *could*:
Amazon and Walmart.
Walmart could site them as one of their in-store "affiliates".

Amazon? They’re OOB thinkers who might decide to zag while everybody else zigs and set up a Payless/Gamestop-style chain of micro-storefronts/showrooms.
(As in, one in every strip mall in the land.)
Might be cheaper than the delivery lockers concept as the micro-storefronts might be self-funding if done right.

I do think tuesday’s going to be interesting.

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2011 um 9:52 am

Nah, Amazon would be better off putting their own name on the store front. It has a better reputation, I think. And if you did put up a sign saying Borders some people will walk in expecting a real bookstore.

fjtorres September 17, 2011 um 11:08 am

I was thinking of the other names; Waldenbooks or Brentannos. Especially the latter.
Mostly because I think pbook retailing is going to end up a boutique business. You really need a name without the warehouse association for an upscale business…
Some folks think there is still a long-term future in "real bookstore"pbook retailing. I don’t.
I see this as a sign of things to come:

willem September 16, 2011 um 6:41 pm

Your speculation that B&N might want to make sure this zombie never rises again seems on the ball:

Nate Hoffelder September 16, 2011 um 7:03 pm

Thanks! I hadn’t seen that one yet.

fjtorres September 16, 2011 um 7:53 pm

$13.9 million. Names, customer lists, etc.
Must’ve be spirited if it went 50 rounds…
I wonder which "internet only" retailers were bidding.

Peter September 16, 2011 um 10:25 pm

This is tangential, but Half price books seems to be stepping up quite a bit to fill the gap left by Borders now.

I had a friend who managed a Borders- after the closure she campaigned to bring HPB to her town, then just went ahead and opened a new independent bookshop.

It’s already open- I was pretty surprised by how fast that all happened.

Tyler September 16, 2011 um 11:56 pm

What’s HPB?

fjtorres September 17, 2011 um 7:36 am

A chain that sells both new and used books in their mid-sized storefronts. They buy used books for store credit.

Tyler September 17, 2011 um 9:29 am

Oh, I have heard of Half Priced Books. I just don’t think that there are any around here. I just couldn’t figure out what HPB stood for. Thanks.

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