Jessica Hofford of downtown Charleston occasionally shops at Books-a-Million in West Ashley.
On Monday, while taking her computer to be serviced next door at Best Buy, she was shocked to see a large yellow sign spanning the front of the building: “Store Closing. This location only.”
“It’s always unfortunate to see someone go out of business,” Hofford said while shopping for a couple of birthday presents to take advantage of the clearance sale.
Everything in the roughly 20,000-square-foot store is marked down up to 50 percent off.
It’s last day will be Feb. 16, store manager Jonathan Frasier said.
He declined to give a reason for the store’s demise, and officials at the 257-store chain’s headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., did not immediately return calls or an email for comment.
“I can’t disclose why we are closing,” Frasier said.
It’s no secret the book industry continues to struggle in the age of the Internet and electronic readers.
Last year, The Book Exchange, an independent bookseller on Savannah Highway, shut the book on its business after 32 years, citing the rise of electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
“It won’t be long before it’s all online,” lamented John L. Paul, a West Ashley insurance agent who stopped by to pick up a couple of books at Books-a-Million without knowing the store was closing until he saw the sign.
“I’m sorry to see it,” the Mount Pleasant resident said of the store that opened in 1994 across from Citadel Mall. “I think competition is always good.”
Jessica Smith of West Ashley was shocked to see the closing sign.
“Typically, the bigger chains don’t do that,” the nurse said while picking out some fiction to read. “It’s the economy. People aren’t able to spend money on books, and they are using Kindles and Nooks more.”
In its latest earnings report, the bookstore chain reported in November comparable store sales, those stores open at least a year, declined 2.4 percent during its first three quarters of the year over the previous year with a net loss from continuing operations of $5.6 million. It also reported net sales increased 12.2 percent across the board during its first three quarters.
Books-a-Million’s CEO and President Terry Finley said at the time the earnings report reflected “stabilization in our core book business.”
The company’s fourth-quarter and yearly results are due out in February.
When the West Ashley store closes next month, 14 employees,including Frasier, will be out of a job.
Frasier, who has worked there four years, doesn’t have plans for another job yet.
“I’ll find something,” he said.
The closing will not affect the sister store at Northwoods Mall.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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