Amid the Riverdeep/Reed excitement yesterday, we missed the veritable slew of news about Borders. Most of it of limited value but humor me: Firstly, the company announced a new CIO by announcing the departure of (perhaps) the key executive that could help the company become a more integrated retailer (mall stores, super stores, website). Rick Vansura had two terms with the organization (1994-1999) and from 2003. One of his primary initial jobs was to launch a Borders web site.
The organization subsequently threw in with Amazon.com and he took up other responsibilities, left the company and then returned. In his current role he was responsible for strategic direction but this seemed to be more of a place-holder while George Jones decided what to do. Currently, the Borders strategy is not dependent on any one individual rather it depends how recently they have looked at the Barnes & Noble annual report.
The announcement was clearly hurried and they tacked on the cio announcement to make it look planned. With the IT issues Borders faces wouldn't it be better to focus on that story and how this ex-medium sized book retail VP Technology can help them?
Secondly, the company seems to have stepped into something smelly by stocking Tin Tin, a heretofore standard children's book but which is now regarded as racist. Somehow, they have garnered all kinds of newspaper commentary and reports about this rather negative situation. I think they need better PR.
And finally, George Jones was interviewed by Jeff Trachtenberg of the WSJ yesterday and said basically nothing new other than the following:
Why are retail stores having a problem? Answer: Internet, Walmart and Costco. Nothing about store location, store mix, better partnerships, better store layouts, better in store help, better community.
Are you too late to the webstore game? No. Well he couldn't say Yes; however, they do need to extend the community aspect with respect to their customers and investment here is probably unavoidable. They want to mimic B&N in the integration of store and web but there are no new customers who haven't already chosen between B&N or Amazon. They must separate the fulfillment and supply chain aspects from the community development/membership. Perhaps they are, but they could end up sinking a lot of money in a transaction site that doesn't come close to separating them from B&N and Amazon.com
An overemphasis on a digital offering? No, because people over 35 don't know how to program their IPOD. Hummm. Admittedly speechless.