Borders (Singapore)



The first Borders store in Singapore was opened by American book retail chain Borders Group Incorporated at Wheelock Place in 1997. The arrival of Borders brought forth changes in the local book retail business as it introduced new services and store facilities that created a unique shopping experience for customers. Borders Singapore operated out of its flagship store at Wheelock Place and also a branch outlet at Parkway Parade that was opened in 2007. Both stores were eventually closed in 2011 when parent company REDgroup Retail went into administration following financial problems. The Borders Singapore franchise was eventually bought over by Popular Holdings, which opened a new outlet at Westgate mall in 2013.

Arrival in Singapore
Opening of Wheelock Place store

Borders opened its first Singapore store on 1 November 1997 at Wheelock Place along Orchard Road.1 The flagship store was the first international venture of Borders Group Incorporated (USA).2 The Wheelock store was also the largest bookstore in Singapore at the time.3 Borders (then known as Borders Books. Music. Café.)4 opened amid much expectation that it would meet local readers’s demands. This demand was projected to be strong despite the then poor retail climate5 as Borders’s store environment, a “community gathering place”, was considered by its management to be enough to attract customers.6

A new experience for customers
Borders’s strategy in book retailing set it apart from other local bookstores like MPH and Times The Bookshop. Borders introduced the idea of a lifestyle store;7 apart from selling books, it stocked a large music selection as well as DVDs.8

In order to create a “unique experience”,9 a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy a book was developed. Borders encouraged customers to spend time in the store by providing sofas and armchairs, as well as by not shrink-wrapping their books.10 The bookstore also portrayed itself as a place to hang-out:11 this was achieved by being the first in Singapore and also among Borders Group’s international chain of stores to have a café and bistro within the bookstore itself.12 These service innovations gave the bookstore’s patrons the option of relaxing with a book while drinking coffee.13 Borders’s presence also contributed to the image of the Wheelock Place-Liat Towers area as the location for the young and fashionable to hang out.14 These fresh initiatives were topped off by extending store operation hours to 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.15

Borders offered a range of activities that engaged the community. This included book launches, book-discussion groups and poetry workshops.16 Among the activities held at its Wheelock store were the Arts Fest fringe events for children in June 1999, in tandem with the Singapore Arts Festival KidsFest programme.17 The launch of various volumes of the acclaimed Harry Potter book series was also held at Borders Wheelock. Borders’s staff engaged with its patrons through teaching children magic tricks at the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in June 2003,18 and in July 2007 it held a best-dressed competition for customers queuing to collect pre-ordered copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.19

Effect on book retail market and competitors
Borders’s entry into the local book retail scene pressured long-time bookstores MPH and Times to respond. Competition was made more acute by Japanese book retail giant Kinokuniya Bookstore’s expansion of its business here in response to the arrival of Borders. It built a mega bookstore at Ngee Ann City in 1999, surpassing Borders to become the largest bookstore in Singapore.20 As a result of both entrants, there came increased competition over the market share of the local book retail sector, which led to MPH’s revamp of its store layouts.21 In 2002, Times also renovated its flagship store at Centrepoint to include a café-cum-ice cream parlour and expanded children’s books section.22

Development and expansion
The Wheelock flagship store in Singapore grossed the highest in sales per square foot among Borders Group’s international chain of Borders stores in 200623, breaking its own sales target of S$25 million in its first year of operations.24 The Wheelock store secured this achievement again in the following year.25 Following these sales achievements, a second Borders bookstore was opened at Parkway Parade on 23 November 2007.26

Decline
Borders’s operation model of encouraging the browsing of books eventually caused inconvenience to its customers, and contributed to the decline of its popularity over time.

The flagship store at Wheelock Place became known as a place where parents left their children while they went shopping.27 Moreover, the free-to-browse approach that Borders took backfired: browsers occupied seats for long periods of time, and books damaged from repeated browsing could not be sold.28 In 2002, Borders drew flak for stopping patrons from sitting on the floor, and reducing seating areas to limit the number of browsers in the bookstore.29 Borders’s book selection had also deteriorated with bargain books taking up most of the shop space, which gave the impression of “a warehouse with permanent sale displays".30 Competition from online bookstores and e-book sales were also reasons for Borders’s decreasing popularity.31

Closure of stores in Singapore
There was speculation that Borders Singapore was affected by the fortunes of its parent company in Australia,32 REDgroup Retail, which entered voluntary administration to head off insolvency proceedings in February 2011.33

Borders’s store at Wheelock Place was suddenly shut on 16 August 2011 due to a rental dispute with its landlord.34 It was announced three days later that it would close for good.35 Subsequently, the plans to sell off Borders’s Singapore business to other local companies came undone as the brand license agreement was terminated by Borders USA.36 Borders’s branch at Parkway Parade closed on 26 September 2011.37

Reintroduction under Popular Holdings
Local book publisher, distributor and retailer Popular Holdings announced in July 2013 that it had acquired the Borders Singapore brand the year before and intended to open a new Borders store at the Westgate mall in Jurong later in the year.38 The store was eventually opened in December that year to strong sales and mixed reviews, with some customers complaining that it lacked the reader-friendly atmosphere of the original store at Wheelock Place.39

Timeline
1 Nov 1997: Borders opened at Wheelock Place, becoming the largest bookstore in Singapore.
Jun 1999: Arts Fest fringe events held in Wheelock Place store.
2002:
Introduction and enforcement of “no sitting on the floor” rule, and limits imposed on sitting areas in-store.

Jun 2003: Engagement activities held for patrons at Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book launch.
2006:
Borders Singapore grossed highest in sales per square foot among all its stores worldwide.

2007: Borders Singapore repeated its top sales performance.
Jul 2007: Best-dressed competition organised for patrons on sidelines of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book launch.
23 Nov 2007:
Borders at Parkway Parade opened for business.

Feb 2011: Borders’s Australian parent company, REDGroup Retail, entered into voluntary administration. Borders in USA followed suit.
16 Aug 2011: Borders’s Wheelock Place bookstore abruptly shut pending outcome of rental dispute.
19 Aug 2011: Wheelock Place outlet declared to be shut permanently.
26 Sep 2011: Parkway Parade branch closed.
31 Jul 2013: Popular Holding announced plans to open new Borders store after acquiring the Borders Singapore brand.
2 Dec 2013: Borders store opened at Westgate mall in Jurong.



Author

Kenneth Goh



References
1. Ong, S. F. (1997, September 19). Borders opens in Nov. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Rashiwala, K. (1997, June 18). Bookshop giant extends its Borders. The Straits Times, p. 60. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Kerk, C. (1997, November 1). A place to read, drink and be merry. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tan, C. (2010, July 27). Borders to get new café. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Kerk, C. (1997, November 1). A place to read, drink and be merry. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Kerk, C. (1997, November 1). A place to read, drink and be merry. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Borders’ closure a pity. (2011, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lai, Y. M. (2009, October 26). Getting into customers’ good books. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Rashiwala, K. (1998, November 12). Borders planning a second store. The Straits Times, p. 60. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Borders’ closure a pity. (2011, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chia, A. (2011, August 25). Borders was dying anyway. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, H. H. (2001, July 6). Mixing lattes and letters. The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chia, A. (2011, August 25). Borders was dying anyway. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Rashiwala, K. (1997, June 18). Bookshop giant extends its Borders. The Straits Times, p. 60. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. A haven for browsers. (2000, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Ong, S. F. (1997, September 19). Borders opens in Nov. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Arts fest for kids at Borders. (1999, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Pottermania hits Singapore. (2003, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Yap, S. (2007, July 20). 7.01 countdown to tomorrow. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Cheong, J. (2007, July 24). Borders to open second store in Parkway Parade. The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Book fight. (2001, March 24). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Kerk, C. (2002, July 19). Times revamps to draw Borders’ crowd. The Business Times, p. 7; Ong, S. F. (2002, July 19). Sign of the times. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Chia, A. (2011, August 27). What caused Borders to close? The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Rashiwala, K. (1998, November 13). Borders’ success story excites developers, shoppers. The Straits Times, p. 86. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Yap, S. (2007, November 23). Borders store opens in Parkway Parade. The Straits Times, p. 90. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Yap, S. (2007, November 23). Borders store opens in Parkway Parade. The Straits Times, p. 90. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Lim, L. (1998, April 24). A bookshop’s not a day-care centre. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Chua, R. (1997, November 16). After-hours brigade needed to tidy up mess. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Ho, M. (2002, May 18). No more sitting. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Ong, S. F. (2004, May 22). Inking a better deal. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Yang, J. (2011, September 21). Books without Borders. Today, p. 50; Borders’ closure a pity. (2011, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Ee, W. W. J. (2011, August 20). Borders’ Wheelock store: It’s the end. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Ong, S. M. (2011, February 28). Forget Borders, I’ll open my own chain of bookstores. The New Paper, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Lim, J. (2011, August 17). Closed doors greet Borders customers. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. See, S. (2011, August 20). Borders at Wheelock to close for good. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Lim, J. (2011, September 24). Borders concludes final chapter here. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Durai, J. (2011, September 27). Borders’ Singapore story comes to an end. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Cai, H. X. (2013, August 1). Borders bookstore back by Popular demand. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
39. Nanda, A. (2013, December 3). Borders Singapore reopens to strong sales and mixed reviews at Westgate mall. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/lifestyle/story/borders-singapore-reopens-strong-sales-and-mixed-reviews-westgate-mall




Further resources

Cheong, J. (2000, May 8). Kinokuniya to up the ante in August. The Business Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Koh, B. (2008, March 16). Bookshop or daycare? The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Miller, L. J. (2008). Reluctant capitalists: Bookselling and the culture of consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(Call no.: RBUS 381.450020973 MIL)

Nanda, A. (2011, February 22). ‘Business as usual’ at Borders S’pore. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Nayar, P. (2006, March 10). New kid on the books block. The Business Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan, C. (2010, July 27). Borders to get new café. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 28 January 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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