Thursday, February 17, 2011

is ellsworth drive keeping borders open?

Sunny Days & Starry Nights
You've probably already heard that Borders is declaring bankruptcy and has released a list of store closures. Thankfully, the branch in downtown Silver Spring has been spared, though I was fully prepared to engage in some speculation as to what could replace it.

Yesterday, State Delegate Heather Mizeur (who represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park) tweeted that the Borders will stay open because of "how great and vibrant Ellsworth Drive is." She's right. Bookstores have an important role in urban places. They bring activity, in the form of foot traffic and customers, but they also feed off the area's energy. You're walking down Ellsworth Drive for some reason - dinner and a movie, coming back from the Metro, going to work - and find yourself killing ten minutes in the bookstore. Sometimes, you'll buy something. Other times, you won't. But there are enough people doing this that they survive.

Not so at Borders' locations at White Flint Mall, Bowie Town Center or the Boulevard at the Capital Center in Largo, all three of which will close within the next few weeks. Unlike downtown Silver Spring, these three places are all solely shopping centers. And they're all struggling, though for different reasons: White Flint is is showing its age and losing out to more upscale shopping areas like Friendship Heights, while both Bowie Town Center and the Boulevard have struggled with the economic downturn and fears of crime. These three places draw people intentionally. You may not be going to White Flint for Borders, and you might stop in on a whim, but you're only at the mall because you're there to shop. Already, you've lost potential customers.

Of course, this theory doesn't explain how Borders' branches in Dupont Circle and Friendship Heights are also closing. Blogger Bossi created these charts showing how much foot traffic there is in Silver Spring and Friendship Heights, and they're roughly equal. And it's likely that there's much less foot traffic in Silver Spring than there is in Dupont Circle. I'm not sure why their only remaining stores in the District - the one on 14th Street in Metro Center closed last summer and will become a Clyde's restaurant - aren't busy enough to stay open.

Meanwhile, downtown Silver Spring just got itself another draw for people across the region. After the store closures, the next closest location in Maryland will be Columbia, 23 miles away. (Of course, they'll still have their Pentagon City store, but that's in Virginia.)


Matt' said...

Borders in Bowie is *not* in Bowie Town Center. If it was, it might be doing better, as the Barnes and Noble in BTC is.

The Borders in Bowie is in a strip shopping center with Target, backed up against Route 50 off of Mitchellville Road.

jag2923 said...

I imagine the bethesda B&N will be more convenient for people who are losing their stores in F.Heights or White Flint, but I, too, am hoping this news means our Borders will attract even more people to DTSS. Guess we shall see!

Cyndy said...

We are very lucky that the Silver Spring Borders was spared. Let's hope it stays that way!

Isayaah Parker said...

Oh please, a Borders Bookstore is not a destination in 2011. The closures will have no effect on the Borders of Silver Spring because lets face it, there are 1. Alternatives like Barnes N Nobles and 2. People do not read hard copies any more as much, Kindel and free downloads online have taken the need away for HUGE theme park bookstores

jag2923 said...

Isayaah, the store is always packed, so at worst it's (like Dan said) a place where people enjoy spending time between doing other activities in DTSS. Some people get their shopping done there and for the rest of us it's a cool place to look around and kill 15 min. Borders certain adds something (increasingly unique) to the "destination" draw of DTSS in general. Obviously, we all hope people don't just come to DTSS for 1 store - the entire point and reason why DTSS thrives is because it has a multitude of different offerings.

Isayaah Parker said...

But that is the case in point Jag2923, for the most part, people are not actually SHOPPING at Borders. Borders DOES NOT want people coming into its business roaming the aisles and reading books that they are NOT going to pay for which is why they took out the comfy seating. People go there for 15 minutes of entertainment, I go there to listen to some free music samples and may be browse some books. But I have NEVER bought anything from there, because its overpriced compared to the online world. At the end of the day, we can have all this colorful nostalgia about a place being a pleasant BROWSING DESTINATION but Borders is a business, its not there to jack people off for 15 minutes, its there to make a profit. So we need to let go of it. After all, a better destination would be a FREE FUNKY Museum in that space rather than a cluttered crowded non-profitable bookstore.