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Borders to shutter last of its 6 stores in Hawaii

The mega-bookseller, which did not adapt to consumer habits, will be liquidated

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services

LAST UPDATED: 11:53 a.m. HST, Jul 19, 2011

Hawaii's six remaining Borders bookstores and nearly 400 others nationwide will be closed in the next several months as the 40-year-old bookseller said Monday that it will liquidate.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain, which helped pioneer the big-box bookseller concept, joins the list of retailers that have failed to adapt to changing consumer habits and survive the economic downturn, including Circuit City, Blockbuster and Linens ‘N Things.

Borders is expected to seek court approval Thursday to sell off its assets after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business.

If approved, the company's six stores in Hawaii — at Ward Centre, Windward Mall, Pearlridge Center, Royal Hawaiian Center and Town Center of Mililani on Oahu and Kaahumanu Center on Maui — would be closed. The company has already closed its Hilo, Kahului, Lihue and Waikele stores, and had announced it would close the Royal Hawaiian Center and Mililani shops this year.

Border has 399 stores and 10,700 employees nationwide.

At the Borders store at Ward Centre Monday, Waikiki resident John Noblezada said he goes there once a week and buys three or four books a month, though he has also begun buying e-books.

"It's definitely a sad time. I bought a Kindle, so maybe I'm part of the evil evolution," said Noblezada, 35, an optometrist at Kaiser Permanente. "I'm not surprised. It was inevitable. Borders just couldn't find its niche like Barnes & Noble. I was hoping Barnes & Noble would buy them out."

Makiki resident Bob Greil, a 93-year-old shoemaker, said he visits Borders at least three times a week, spending $50 to $60 per month. He said he was neither saddened nor surprised by the news of Borders' demise.

"The Kindle killed 'em," Greil said. "It's the time of the great lessening. Borders has no customer base. People won't be sad. Arrivederci, Borders."

On Thursday, Borders is expected to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York at a scheduled hearing to allow it to be sold to liquidators led by Hilco <t-7>Merchant Resources and Gordon Bros. Group. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday; the company could go out of business by the end of September.

Borders' attempt to stay in business unraveled quickly last week after a $215 million "white knight" bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. dissolved under objections from creditors and lenders. They argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

"We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, e-reader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now," said Borders Group President Mike Edwards in a statement.

The loss of Borders stores will deal a blow to malls nationwide, according to real estate sources. Borders stores average about 25,000 square feet — about half the size of a football field — and a liquidation could leave large empty spaces across the country.

The Associated Press and Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the type of books
John Noblezada buys as paperback books.

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