Can King Leonidas do for Borders Group
You can say it started with Harry -- Potter, that is. The young wizard worked magic on the top lines of Borders, rival Barnes & Noble
But what began with Harry and Hogwarts has grown into something more. Teen literature is hot. Estimates suggest the category will generate $744.3 million in revenues for U.S. publishers this year, up 13% from $659.1 million in 2008. In comparison, book retailing in general is slumping, with revenue expected to fall nearly 5% from a year ago.
Instead of trying to grab kids' eyes as they rush past the book stacks toward the movies and music, Borders is creating an in-store boutique called Borders Ink, featuring graphic novels, manga (Japan's homegrown style of comics), vampires, and, of course, wizards. It hopes to have as many as 90% of its superstores featuring the teen reading section by the end of the month.
Bibliophiles might turn up their noses at the notion of calling graphic novels "literature," but they've at least gotten kids interested in reading again. Successful film adaptations of Frank Miller's 300 and Sin City, not to mention movies based on comic book characters like Iron Man from Marvel
Manga's big business, too, on both sides of the Pacific. According to Tokyo-based research firm Research Institute for Publication, manga generated 448 billion yen in its printed form in 2008. But the mobile phone-based versions of the comics are becoming the real page-turners. Impress R&D says cellphone manga generated 32.9 billion yen in revenue for Japanese producers for the year ending in March -- up from zero in 2003! Although comic books are probably considered a more male-oriented form of entertainment in the U.S., one Japanese publisher says women comprise 70% of the cellphone manga readers. (English-language manga has also become popular among women and girls in the U.S.)
A quick read
Like Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae, Borders is making a last-ditch stand, this time to stop the customer hordes from abandoning its bookshelves altogether.
For the past three trailing-12-month periods ending in May, revenue at Borders has fallen at a compounded 8% rate, and losses have steadily widened. It has increasingly lost sales to rivals like Amazon.com
Those dire statistics are a graphic reminder that even at $4 a share, Borders stock is more likely to end up in the remainders bin than on the best-sellers list.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Wal-Mart but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.