Books-A-Million begins opening at former Borders sites



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As part of a move to expand its New England footprint, Alabama-based Books-A-Million recently opened its first New Hampshire store and will open two more by the end of this week.Books-A-Million had a soft opening of its first Granite State location on Friday, Oct. 28, in North Conway, and will open two superstores in Concord and West Lebanon on Friday, Nov. 4.Books-A-Million took over some of Borders' Granite State leases and is hoping to snag some of that now-defunct chain's former customers."We saw an opportunity to expand our footprint," said Jane Hoerner, director of marketing for Books-A-Million. "For all of these towns, the Borders stores had dedicated customers, so we wanted to bring (our stores) to these markets."Once the nation's second-largest bookseller, Borders liquidated and shuttered all of its nearly 400 bookstores across the country in July. Books-A-Million is not taking over the former Borders superstore in Keene or the Borders Express in Salem.All told, Books-A-Million will hire about 70 New Hampshire employees, 30 at each superstore and about 10 in the smaller North Conway mall store, said Hoerner. More employees may also be added during the holidays, she said.The expansion into New Hampshire is part of an aggressive growth plan by Books-A-Million in the wake of Borders' shutdown.Books-A-Million already operates 232 stores in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and in just a matter of months it has opened or will open 41 more stores in 18 states, into the Northeast as well as out west.All of its New Hampshire stores will sell the Nook e-reader, with displays set up that let customers experience the devices, as well as a bargain book selection that offers some titles at up to 80 percent off.In addition to books, both of its superstores will have a Joe Muggs Café, a coffee and espresso bar that offers a selection of gourmet coffees, teas and desserts, a selection of more than 2,600 magazine titles and an electronic accessories department.The stores also have a "Kids-A-Million" section, with children's' books, games, toys and puzzles for sale.Hoerner said that a dedicated regional buyer has been in touch with area publishers and that the stores will feature a selection of regional offerings."That's something we've really put a large focus on, making sure we stock the regional titles," said Hoerner. "We want to make sure we're blending with the community."Regardless of whether Books-A-Million is afraid of the forces that caused its New Hampshire predecessor to shut down -- a feeble economy, online booksellers undercutting sales at brick-and-mortar stores, the growing demand for e-readers -- it's taking a chance that some consumers still want the experience of visiting a bookstore."I can't make predictions about the economy or the market, but we're just really excited about bringing Books-A-Million to 18 states and 41 markets," said Hoerner. "We feel really confident about our stores and booksellers." -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW Edit ModuleShow Tags