Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bibliophile-About-Town: Visiting the Borders Concept Store in Wareham, Mass.

Last Saturday, after running some errands, my husband and I decided to take a ride down to Boston's South Shore, to visit the town of Wareham, and the new Borders Concept Store, which had just opened a couple of days before.

First, let me be clear about one thing: I love Borders. It has always been my favorite of the big-box bookstores, hands down. I love the Boston stores (there are two now in downtown Boston) and I've spent countless hours in them shopping, browsing, reading, hanging around with friends- you name it. I read a lot of literary fiction, and I love to browse, and two things have always been true for me about Borders- I can always find what I'm looking for, and they have great displays. I also love their in-store pickup service. I love indie bookstores too, but they are different, and provide a different experience; basically I'll shop for books anywhere but when it comes to those big stores, Borders is just my favorite.

So I had high hopes on visiting the Concept Store, and a lot of questions. What exactly is a "concept store"? How was it going to be different from the regular Borders? What are all these kiosks and computer stations? Luckily for me, the manager of the Wareham Concept Store, Mary Dillon, was nice enough to take some time from her workday to do an impromptu interview with me and gave me lots of really good information. I also found this video, wherein Borders CEO George Jones gives an introduction to the Concept Store idea:

Wow, look at all the books, I thought as I wandered the gorgeous displays just inside the entry- curving tables laden with new books, standing and in piles, offering themselves up for browsing and handling. Then I noticed the excellent signage, raised above the shelves for easy navigation. Ms. Dillon told me that the company had brought in merchandisers just to design all this spiffy shelving, signs and displays, and all the work really shows. It's gorgeous, eye-catching and made me want to buy stuff. A lot of stuff!

The idea behind the Concept Store seems to be to provide more services than are traditionally associated with a bookstore, and to locate those services in appropriate areas of the store. These areas are called "destination areas" and include cooking, wellness and travel. Kiosks in these areas allow customers to search for recipes and even arrange vacations right in the store. The children's area is likewise filled with a combination of books and educational toys- to my librarian's eye, maybe a few too many toys- but the idea behind this merchandising is to pair the books with other materials of interest to the customer.

One of the most visible distinctions between the Concept Store and the ordinary Borders is the media area. It's smaller than in most Borders; instead of a vast selection of CDs, there are workstations where users can download songs and either burn them to CD or download them right into their MP3 player- as long as you don't use an iPod! Hopefully this oversight will be fixed quickly. I also learned about Borders' new self-publishing venture, which is operating in conjunction with The service allows customers to publish their own books and ties them into Borders by allowing others to order self-published books in-store. In the future there are also plans to have a section of the store where people can actually buy self-published books, and to hold author readings for self-published Borders authors as well.

The store also boasts a nice Seattle's Best Coffee outlet, thoughtfully set up with a huge bookcase in front of the seating area for privacy and quiet. The cafe also has outdoor seating, an added bonus. We stayed and relaxed with an ice coffee for a few minutes after speaking with Ms. Dillon and liked it very much.

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to the Borders Concept Store. It's too far away from where I live (1-hour plus driving time) to go there too often, and I am blessed to be in a great community for bookstores, but I have a feeling it's going to be a real asset to the Wareham area, where someone told me it is the only bookstore in a 30-mile radius. I hope they stay open late and take advantage of the hang-out traffic- the Borders nearest me closes at 9 and on those nights when I'm out late and want to browse or grab a coffee, I have to go to that other big chain bookstore. Oh well. It's a really nice store. I gather that the company is planning to open a total of 14 of these stores nationwide- that's too few, in my opinion. I'd love to see one of the downtown Boston stores converted into a Concept Store, so that there's one closer to me!

Is there a Concept Store near you? Want to learn more from Borders? Go to the PR page here.


Yvonne said...

I've never heard of a concept store before, but it sounds nice. Borders is my favorite of all the bookstores and I now love their online store.

Andi said...

I was really curious about the hows and whys of a concept store, and you've cleared it up nicely. I wish there was one of these in the Dallas area!

Candy Schultz said...

I used to love Borders over all others. The original store is in Ann Arbor. Nowadays I can never find anything I am looking for. For me only Amazon has everything. Admittedly Borders does not sell used books so if I am looking for something older they will never have it. They always offer to order things but they always screw that up.

Bertha said...

Wow, that sounds awesome! Next time I'm in Wareham (Uh, I don't think I've ever actually been in Wareham, but who knows what the future holds!) I will check it out.

S. Krishna said...

I was really curious about the concept store when you said you had visited one. Great review!

Florinda said...

Borders is also my favorite of the big-chain bookstores, for many of the same reason you mentioned. That Concept Store sounds great! I doubt there will be one coming to the LA area any time soon, unfortunately, so it was really nice to get the scoop from you :-).

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Thanks so much for sharing your tour of the Concept store.
It sounds like an ideal place for book lovers (although I agree that some kids sections have too many "educational toys")
Whenever we go to the US Borders is always my first stop to stock up on what I call "trip reads"!

Ruth King said...

I really enjoyed this post. I love Borders and would definitely go a little bit out of my way to go to a concept store. None opening in my area yet, though.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a field trip is in order (hello, Mapquest?).

Interesting about the joint-venture between Borders and lulu publishing; POD is really taking off!

Thanks for sharing your travels with us.

Kathleen Gilligan said...

I've never been a fan of borders, mostly because all that are nearby are the borders express stores which are smaller and have no room to sit or anything like that. Plus amazon has always been cheaper... But I'd love to check out a borders concept store :)

Marie Cloutier said...

Yvonne- yes, I love their new website too. Very fun and cool. :-)

Andi-thanks :-)

Candy-I've never special-ordered anything from them. Sorry it's been less than ideal.

Bertha- I had never been to Wareham either! When I looked for it on the map it was no where near where I thought it would be!

S. Krishna, Ruth, Sheistoofondofbooks, BookZombie, Florinda- thanks :-)

Kathleen- yes, I know what you mean. the Concept Store is pretty fun, I think you'd probably have a decent time browsing there :-)

Amy said...

Well I prefer that other big chain bookstore because where I live the Borders is quite poorly set up and doesn't offer nearly as many books.

This concept store does sound like a nice place, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm split about big-chain. I like their expansive selection but at the same time I'll like to support the indies. But I'm still very curious if one of the 14 will be in San Francisco. :)

Anonymous said...

oh, man! I want one! I want one! As long as the same people from my Waldenbooks is still working there. I couldn't possibly think of book shopping without Jan! She's my eyes and ears in the book world!

Serena said...

I just found your blog because of your latest contest. I've subscribed on bloglines. I cannot wait to keep up with this blog.

I miss living and going to college in Boston. I used to love the Borders near Filenes and dare I say Woolworths! Yes, I remember when there was a Woolworths.

This concept store sounds fantastic. We need one of these in D.C. That would entice me to spend many more hours in the book store than I do now. Borders has always been my favorite big box bookstore, though I think the ones up in Mass. have better selection than the ones down here in Maryland and D.C. (just an observation)

However, there are great number of independent booksellers here. I enjoy them as well.