Bookseller Borders Group plans to close its prominent Bellevue Square location next month, apparently because of weaker-than-expected business...

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Bookseller Borders Group plans to close its prominent Bellevue Square location next month, apparently because of weaker-than-expected business.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer will vacate a 28,000-square-foot space on three floors at The Corner at Bellevue Square on June 12, leaving one of the country’s premier malls without a replacement tenant.

“It’s a mutual termination based on performance,” said Jennifer Leavitt, marketing vice president for Kemper Development, which owns Bellevue Square. “For whatever reason, they have not performed at where they felt they should be.”

Borders did not return calls for comment.

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The bookseller, along with housewares-retailer Crate & Barrel, anchors The Corner, a 110,000-square-foot street-front retail space added to the mall in late 2000.

Leavitt said the restaurants adjacent to the bookstore — including The Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang’s China Bistro — are performing well compared to other locations in their respective chains.

“It’s frankly been really hard to put our finger on,” Leavitt said of the store’s performance. “We’re disappointed for losing that category.”

Shifts in format

Retail experts Dick Outcalt and Patricia Johnson said a number of national retailers, including Borders, Lowe’s and Home Depot, are looking to smaller locations and different store formats to remain competitive.

“They’ve gone through the steroid growth where bigger was better,” Outcalt said. “Yes, bigger is better — for some locations.”

Earlier this month, Borders opened a 3,417-square-foot store in the main terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The airport concept, introduced in 2002, features more than 10,000 book titles, including bestsellers, popular titles aimed at leisure and business travelers, plus magazines and newspapers.

The concept may bode well for Borders because airport-terminal rents are less expensive than malls and they serve a captive audience, Johnson said. Travelers “have a very good reason to buy what they sell,” she said.

Borders, the No. 2 U.S. book chain, downgraded its first-quarter guidance last month, saying it would lose money because of weak sales trends after the Easter holiday.

Borders on Tuesday reported a first-quarter net loss of 7 cents per share vs. a 3-cent-per-share profit a year ago.

Comparable store sales — a key retail gauge for stores open at least a year — fell by 0.7 percent for the quarter, due to a decline in customer traffic and lagging music sales.

Leavitt, of Kemper Development, said Kemper has been in talks with prospective retailers and is still trying to determine the best use of the space.

It will take into account Lincoln Square, a two-tower condo, hotel retail and office development across Bellevue Way owned by Kemper Development.

New mall to open in fall

Lincoln’s three-story shopping mall is expected to open in early November. The space will accommodate larger format retailers, including an upscale billiards parlor, restaurants and a home-furnishings store.

“There’s a number of options,” Leavitt said. “It can be a larger user or small users. It just depends on how we format the space, with the key being finding the right type of retail.”

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com