Borders Books & Music has opened the store in Melbourne, Australia, that has caused much controversy in the book world Down Under. The new store, Borders's fourth in Melbourne, is in Carlton, near the center of the city and across the street from the main branch of Readings, one of Australia's best-loved independent bookstores. Two other independents are nearby. Last year, a Borders executive called the store's proximity to Readings "coincidence."
According to the Weekly Book Newsletter, the new Borders has 19,000 square feet and stocks some 190,000 books, music and DVD titles. General manager Sean Lenehan told the Newsletter that business its first weekend "went very well."
Andrew Ball, owner of Andrew's Bookshop, which is in the same shopping center as Borders, said he was "encouraged with the response from our customers.... We're here to provide a service, and we're sticking to that."
Readings CEO Kate Henderson said that the store has been "overwhelmed with public support thus far," and added that Readings is confident customers will "appreciate the points of difference" between it and Borders.
Borders public relations manager Jenie Carlen told PW that the company believes "there is an opportunity to serve a large community of people in Carlton based on demographic information, growth of the market and the strong presence of businesses, including Melbourne University nearby." She stressed that Borders stores "tend to drive traffic to the retail sectors in which we're situated, so we have every reason to believe our presence in Carlton will increase customer traffic to other businesses in the area."
Readings began responding to Borders several years ago. (Borders opened its first Australian store in Melbourne in 1998 and now has nine in the country.) Among the measures taken, as outlined by co-owner Mark Rubbo last August during a talk at the Australian Booksellers Association meeting: Readings closed several branches that were not central to its operations and opened several others. It has taken steps to be closer to its market and customers and give better service. It has a Web site, which the local community is using as "an adjunct of the service we give," as Rubbo put it. The store also hired an architect to redesign its stores. With a laugh, Rubbo said, "It's not enough to have a dingy store with threadbare carpeting any more." Still, he continued, design must reflect the store's "individuality."