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 stunned 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 being sold for up to 50 percent off.
The store’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., could not be reached for comment Monday.
It’s no secret, though, that the brick-and-mortar book industry continues to struggle in the age of the Internet and electronic reading devices.
Last year, The Book Exchange, an independent bookseller on Savannah Highway, shut the book on its business after 32 years. It cited the rise of electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Nook by Barnes & Noble, which has a location just up the road on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard from Books-a-Million.
“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 work.
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 store at Northwoods Mall.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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