November 29, 2001

Pyramid Mall to Greet Borders Bookstore

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Pyramid Mall announced on Nov. 13 that Borders Group, Inc. will open a new book and music store at the south end of the mall in the Spring of 2002. The 22,000 square foot store will be located between the newly opened Best Buy and the forthcoming Dick’s Sporting Goods, slated for an undetermined 2002 opening date.

The location for Borders was selected with many factors in mind, including visibility to consumer traffic, ease of access, available parking and square footage, according to Liz Heath, Pyramid Mall’s Marketing Director.

Research found favorable income and education levels in the area, indicating the strong potential for success, according to Heath.

The store will boast a broad selection of over 150,000 books, periodicals and video titles. Within the store itself, Borders Cafe Express will provide the opportunity for shoppers to relax and choose from a variety of beverages from around the world, in addition to desserts, according to Heath.

Borders Group Inc. is a leading global retailer of books, music, video and other information and entertainment items with stores in the United States, and other countries abroad. With headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company employs 30,000 people worldwide and operates over 355 domestic superstores in addition to its other holdings. The company also offers shopping online, in cooperation with Amazon.com, according to the company’s web site.

When asked why Borders in particular was selected for Pyramid Mall’s space, Heath said, “I’m not sure. There were customer requests for a few others. Our home office negotiated the deal,” she said.

Barnes and Noble is expected to enter the Triphammer Mall plaza in the old Tops building on Elmira Road. It will reside within the city boundaries, while Borders is positioned outside of city lines, according to Joan Spielholz, Fourth Ward Ithaca Common Council member.

When this happens, she believes that Barnes and Noble will compete directly with Borders, instead of with other local, smaller independently-owned bookstores.

However, many local, independently owned book stores are concerned about big box stores like Borders and the future Barnes and Noble inhabiting Ithaca and their effects on the local economy and the city’s tax base.

“The new big box retailers will cut overall traffic downtown as people decide to purchase everything they need [at Pyramid] in one trip, and this will in turn affect retailers, said Joe Wetmore, owner of Autumn Leaves on the Ithaca commons.

Wetmore disapproves of big box bookstores coming to Ithaca.

“They will come in, sell their products and once a profit is made, raise their prices and not care. It’s all part of their monopolistic policy, and big corporations [like Borders] get away with this all the time,” he said.

According to Wetmore, the problem lies in the fact that major decisions are made by large, out of town corporation heads instead of by local managers who work and live in the Ithaca community.

One of the reasons many people oppose big-box retail is because it does not increase the city’s tax base, according to Wetmore.

“The inner city becomes less valuable. This is socially destructive to our communities,” he said.

Others believe there will be an extra incentive to shop locally at Pyramid, instead of driving to outside cities.

“I’m in favor of [Borders residing] in the county and wish that we had something like this in the city. Shopping locally is definitely a benefit. Many will stay home and hopefully do more things in the area as well. It’s important for the funding of services and the increase of our tax base. As much as there is a concern about small independent bookstores going out of business, [they are] specialized stores that offer a different type of value and service. It is important to keep in mind that currently we do not have the kind of choices needed. You really need to have both,” Spielholz said.

Wetmore stressed that the downtown’s economic future will not be as strong as it could be with the influx of Borders and other big box bookstores.

“In general, we will survive downtown. However, it is just one more thing that will hurt us,” Wetmore added.

Some believe it is difficult to gauge exactly what will happen between the big box retailers themselves and other local, established bookstores. However, Spielholz remains optimistic.

“It’s hard to know exactly why people oppose big box stores like Borders. However, I believe the used and discounted stores on the commons are going to be fine,” Spielholz said.

Many have questioned why a store the size of Borders did not arrive sooner. “Ithaca is a highly educated reading market. Many recognized that there wasn’t [a big book store like Borders] here,” Spielholz explained.

“Zoning has stipulations of what size they want and what kind of layout is needed. Unless there is a perfect space that it can fit into, it will likely not happen right away,” she added.

The Village of Lansing zoning board agreed to further development in the Pyramid Mall area last year, according to Spielholz.

Whiteleather praised availability of future book stores and increased selection for Ithacans.

“We have a great community of book lovers. It is important to have a variety of bookstores that do a good job serving the other segments of the population that aren’t already recognized,” she said.

Community interaction and commitment are high priorities for the upcoming Borders store, according to Heath. Each one will host free in-store events reflecting the unique personality and interests of the area. This could include anything from lectures, author signings and children’s activities, to neighborhood workshops and special benefit days, according to Heath.

“I’m sure that Borders will bring a lot of unique merchandise, and that they will be a great asset not only to the mall, but to the entire community. I also think that students and local residents will welcome it,” Heath said.

In terms of the overall selection process, Pyramid conducts a customer intercept survey each year, utilizing a standard survey provided by the International Counsel of Shopping Centers. The objective is to determine who exactly comprises the customer base for the mall, and which stores are most desired by customers. Pyramid administers nearly 400 surveys in the fall of every year. The results are then analyzed by an outside company, according to Heath.

“Our last survey found that Borders was one of the top choices for a new bookstore here at Pyramid,” according to Heath.

“Pyramid is a large corporation. There is a lot of give and take here. Borders certainly does its homework and looks into where there is a market for a store,” said Spielholz.

When considering what it takes to open a new store, Borders considers many more factors than one might think.

“There are a lot of negotiations from Pyramid’s home office in Syracuse. In addition, research from a customer and marketing stance is conducted to make sure that a new store will make money and draw a clientele,” according to Heath.

When analyzing potential effects on The Cornell Store, Cornell Business Services strategy manager Margie Whiteleather underscored the store’s mission, which focuses on the needs of the Cornell community in particular.

“It is hard at times for Cornell students to travel downtown and elsewhere due to transportation issues. Therefore, we focus on serving the Cornell community here on campus. We specialize in the textbook busi
ness in particular, and it is not likely that they [Borders] will try to cater to students in this area,” she claimed.

The chief concern of the Cornell store with the future opening of Borders is that they will have to continually investigate and update their product mix of books and level of service, focusing on students, professors, staff and the rest of the Cornell community, according to Whiteleather.


Archived article by Chris Westgate