Ann Arbor, Mich. Borders Group is jumping back into online retailing with a Web site after a seven-year partnership with Amazon.com. The new site is designed to evoke the feeling of browsing at a neighborhood bookstore.
Tuesday's launch of Borders.com comes more than two months after Borders announced it might put itself up for sale. Just last week, Barnes & Noble Inc. confirmed it put together a team to study the feasibility of a deal. But Borders Group Inc. president and CEO George Jones told the Associated Press that pushing forward with Borders' return to Web retailing is key—regardless of whether a sale materializes.
The centerpiece of the site is "The Magic Shelf." In addition to sections for new books, CDs and DVDs, it also includes staff picks and a "Picked For You" section of personalized recommendations.
"The desire was really to make people who shop in bookstores comfortable with the site," said Kevin Ertell, VP of e-business for Borders.
Similar to Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble's Web site, Borders will offer free shipping on some orders over $25. Shoppers enrolled in the Borders Rewards loyalty program, which includes about 26 million members, will be able to redeem rewards online—something they couldn't do on the Amazon-partnered site—as well as click on weekly e-mails to buy books, CDs and DVDs.
Borders' new Web site is part of a restructuring announced last year that includes a fresh face for its U.S. superstores, the first of which debuted in February in concept form near its Ann Arbor headquarters.
In 2001, Borders abandoned its online business, turning it over to Amazon. Under that arrangement, Borders.com took shoppers to a site partnered with Amazon, while a Web site for its stores allowed shoppers to check inventories and reserve items.
Borders has said it expects the new Borders.com to be independently profitable in 2009.