bordersIt is a shock to read that Borders UK is on the brink of collapse. The book seller had seemed to revolutionise the UK book market and was widely praised by magazine publishers for the way it displayed their products. However impressive its 45 shops might look, they simply are not working at generating profits. On one side, lots of book sales have moved online, on the other, the supermarkets have made inroads into the best sellers market.

My last visit, only two weeks ago, was a disappointing experience. The two books I went in to find were not available. The bookstore assistant expressed surpise I would be looking for one of the books – Ulysses and Us – in a branch of Borders. I guess that speaks volumes about how a retailer can lose its way.

The previous time I was there, with a senior news wholesale executive, he said to me that he did not know how Borders could compete with supermarkets. He said this looking while looking at a magazine category full of browsers. I was surprised because I had not noticed it was in trouble. I still viewed Borders as having the same brand values it had brought to the UK last century, when it was fresh and relevant. As an occasional Borders customer, I had not noticed it was deeply in trouble.

There are lots of lessons for local retailers in this story but the last one is probably of most value. Sometimes your most loyal shoppers will simply not notice that you have lost relevance. Their loyalty could trap you into staying the same when you need to change.