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Borders’ Last CEO, Mike Edwards, Learned This Lesson As The Ship Sank


Mike Edwards was Borders’ final CEO, and during his fight to save the failing chain he learned one critical lesson: never underestimate a transformational trend.

“What I mean by that is you can be the best ice salesman in America until the refrigerator comes out,” Edwards tells RetailDive. His comparison fits Borders' experience perfectly. The retailer was once America's second-largest bookstore chain, but it was eventually undercut by e-commerce and the e-book, something it even helped grow through its ill-fated deal that let Amazon sell its books online in the early 2000s.

Rather than continue a failing business model, the retailer attempted to get aboard the e-commerce train and to face the digital impact head on, Edward said. But the attempts failed as the retailer continued to fall further into debt, eventually liquidating in 2011 and selling its intellectual properties and trademark to rival Barnes & Noble.

Edwards said he learned "a lot from being pistol-whipped by Amazon for the last eight years," and advised today's struggling retailers to swiftly develop a robust omnichannel presence before falling victim to e-commerce. [RD]