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Friday, January 12, 2018


Number of bookstores in the United States from 2004 to 2018
The number at the top is 37,500. The number at the bottom is 22,500.
Reading about the huge growth in bookstores right after WW2, I wondered just how many there were, but all I found was this graph that just shows things going downhill fast.

So I posted a question on Quora and Jack Noel referred me to a story about Ann Arbor based Borders bookstores. Borders grew from nothing to be something of an empire, and then, in a veritable blink of an eye, it was gone. What follows is condensed from The Ann Arbor News story.
Borders' rise and fall: a timeline of the bookstore chain's 40-year history
By Nathan Bomey
July 18, 2011

This timeline provides a historical perspective of the rise and fall of Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. from its inception in 1971 to its liquidation announcement this afternoon. [40 years]

1971: Brothers Tom and Louis Borders open an 800-square-foot used bookstore called Borders Book Shop at 211 S. South State St. in Ann Arbor.

1970s: Louis Borders develops a software system that allows the store to manage inventory and accurately project sales, giving Borders a competitive advantage that lasted at least two decades.

1991: Borders starts integrating music and movies into some of its stores.

1992: Kmart Corp. acquires Borders. At the time, Borders had 21 large stores and was valued at about $190 million.

1994: The bookseller is the largest retailer in downtown Ann Arbor.

1995: Borders spins off from Kmart and goes public on the New York Stock Exchange.

Feb. 4, 1997: Shares close at an all-time high of $44.88.

March 11, 1997: Borders executes a 2-for-1 split on its stock.

January 1998 to January 1999: Borders expands its store footprint by 25.5 percent, adding 52 superstores in the biggest one-year expansion in its history. By January 1999, the company has 256 superstores averaging $256 in sales per square foot.

May 1998: Borders launches an online retail presence for the first time at

August 2001: Borders contracts with online retailer Amazon to sell products online.

August 2004: Borders signs deal with Starbucks Corp. to run Seattle’s Best Coffee cafe operations in its stores.

2005: Borders posts its most recent annual profit: $101.0 million.

July 2006: Borders has nearly 36,000 employees worldwide.

September 2007: Stock hits then-six-year-low $12.28 a share.

March 28, 2008: Stock closes down 28.5 percent to $5.07 after Borders says it lost $157.4 million in 2007.

May 2008: Severing ties with Amazon, the company launches a new

2009: Borders posts a $187 million loss in 2008.

Dec. 9, 2010: Borders posts $74.4 million loss for third quarter, acknowledges possible cash crunch in early 2011.

Dec. 31, 2010: Stock plunges 22 percent to $0.90 a share.

Feb. 11, 2011: Ackman acknowledges $125 million loss on Borders investment.

July 18, 2011: Borders announces plans to liquidate. Some 10,700 people will lose their jobs, including 400 in Ann Arbor.
Judging by the graph and this timeline I'd say the number of bookstores in the USA probably peeked at 35,000 right around the turn of the century. That's like one store for every 10,000 people.

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