Borders's February opening in the lavish new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in New York City would have created enough of a splash were it a familiar Borders store. But the high-profile location hosts one of a handful of Borders stores sporting a new look that will be implemented in many future stores and "retrofitted" in some established stores, as layout and other factors allow. Eventually it will be the only style new Borders have.
First implemented in a Louisville, Ky., Borders that opened last fall, the new format adopts many elements of cutting-edge general retailing and seeks to emphasize some of Borders's traditional strengths while addressing some of its problems. Signage, never a Borders strong point, is bold and unmistakable at the Borders on Columbus Circle. Fixtures in book areas retain light wood endcaps, but the shelves now are a contrasting gray. Inside the entrance is a "launchpad," with stone flooring and tables of books. Adapting a concept popularized by Target, among others, the store sports a "track," an aisle larger than the rest that circles around the store and "introduces" customers to most sections.
Books are front and center in the new layout, intended to stress Borders's roots as a bookseller. Deco cushioned chairs are spread about the store. A deep red, Borders's corporate color, appears throughout the store. The carpeting varies from section to section. Lighting is much more intense than in older Borders stores. Quotations about books appear on walls in the book areas.
Nonbook sections like gifts and stationery are distinguished by striking fixtures with white molding and other classical details; previously they were on shelving similar to books'. The children's area is discrete, set off by several large orange circles on the ceiling. Music and movie titles are now stocked in high-tech shelving that stands out from book shelving and is flexible. (If sales of music continue to slump and sales of DVDs climb, this will allow the company to easily adjust sections appropriately.) The newsstand, music and movies and cash register areas feature light boxes, LCD screens and a news and stock quotation "zipper." Three connected plasma screens above the cash registers regularly change messages and images.
At 26,000 square feet, the new Borders store is one of the largest businesses in the Shops at Columbus Circle and shares space with such upscale stores as Tourneau, Hugo Boss, A/X Armani Exchange, Coach, J. Crew, Williams-Sonoma and Sephora.
As in the lower Manhattan store that opened last year, the new Borders features a coffee shop run by Dean & Deluca. At 1,400 square feet, it has seating for 38 and offers sandwiches, desserts and more. The company expects that the store will have a particularly strong selection of literature, history, travel, business and cooking titles. In music, Borders stocks an unusually large selection of opera titles, as is the case at its other three Manhattan stores.
After its first full week of business, manager Michael Kelley, formerly a Waldenbooks district manager, told PW that business had been "wonderful" and that the retail center, which has gotten much positive press, was jammed the first weekend. "Some call it Fifth Avenue with a roof," he noted, adding, "It doesn't hurt to open in the winter."
The store and stock may get extra attention from an unintended source: Random House, whose new headquarters is two short blocks away. On a recent visit to Borders, PW noticed at least half a dozen Random employees in the store—one of whom was making sure certain titles were facing out.